Spin-orbit torque manipulated by fine-tuning of oxygen-induced orbital hybridization

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Science Advances  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 11, eaax4278
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax4278


Current-induced spin-orbit torques provide an effective way to manipulate magnetization in spintronic devices, promising for fast switching applications in nonvolatile memory and logic units. Recent studies have revealed that the spin-orbit torque is strongly altered by the oxidation of heterostructures with broken inversion symmetry. Although this finding opens a new field of metal-oxide spin-orbitronics, the role of the oxidation in the spin-orbit physics is still unclear. Here, we demonstrate a marked enhancement of the spin-orbit torque induced by a fine-tuning of oxygen-induced modification of orbital hybridization. This is evidenced by a concomitant enhancement of the interface spin-orbit torque, interface spin loss, and interface perpendicular magnetic anisotropy within a narrow range of the oxidation level of metallic heterostructures. This result reveals the crucial role of the atomic-scale effects in the generation of the spin-orbit torques, opening the door to atomic-level engineering of the spin-orbit physics.

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