Research ArticleAPPLIED PHYSICS

Direct imaging of an inhomogeneous electric current distribution using the trajectory of magnetic half-skyrmions

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Science Advances  07 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 6, eaay1876
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay1876

Abstract

The direct imaging of current density vector distributions in thin films has remained a daring challenge. Here, we report that an inhomogeneous current distribution can be mapped directly by the trajectories of magnetic half-skyrmions driven by an electrical current in Pt/Co/Ta trilayer, using polar magneto-optical Kerr microscopy. The half-skyrmion carries a topological charge of 0.5 due to the presence of Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction, which leads to the half-skyrmion Hall effect. The Hall angle of half-skyrmions is independent of current density and can be reduced to as small as 4° by tuning the thickness of the Co layer. The Hall angle is so small that the elongation path of half-skyrmion approximately delineates the invisible current flow as demonstrated in both a continuous film and a curved track. Our work provides a practical technique to directly map inhomogeneous current distribution even in complex geometries for both fundamental research and industrial applications.

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