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Magnetism and magnetoelectricity of textured thin films and polycrystalline bulk α-Cr2O3

Veremchuk, I.; Makushko, P.; Hedrich, N.; Zabila, Y.; Kosub, T.; Liedke, M. O.; Butterling, M.; Elsherif, A. G. A.; Wagner, A.; Ganss, F.; Burkhardt, U.; Pylypovskyi, O.; Hübner, R.; Faßbender, J.; Maletinsky, P.; Makarov, D.


Magnetoelectric antiferromagnets like α-Cr2O3 are attractive for the realization of energy-efficient and high-speed spin−orbitronic-based memory devices controlled by electric fields [1-3]. In contrast to single crystals, the quality of Cr2O3 thin films and bulk polycrystalline samples is usually compromised by the presence of point defects and their agglomerations at grain boundaries, putting into question their application potential. Here, we experimentally investigated the defect nanostructure of magneton-sputtered 250-nm-thick Cr2O3 thin films prepared under different conditions on single crystals of Al2O3 (0001) and correlate it with the integral and local magnetic properties of the samples [4]. Also, we fabricated of polycrystalline bulk α-Cr2O3 sample in conditions far out of equilibrium relying on spark plasma sintering (SPS) allows high quality material with a density close to that of a single crystal [5]. The sintered sample possesses a preferential [0001] texture at the surface, which can be attributed to uniaxial strain applied to the sample during the sintering process [5]. We evaluated the type and relative concentration of defects. For this purpose, positron annihilation spectroscopy (PAS) was used as a unique probe for open-volume defects in the samples. Our analysis reveals that the Cr2O3 samples are characterized by the presence of complex defects at grain boundaries, formed by groups of single monovacancies, coexisting with complex defects and dislocations. The concentration of complex defects for the thin films can be controlled by the sample fabrication conditions including the deposition temperature as well as the post-annealing in vacuum or in air [4]. The antiferromagnetic state of the sample and linear magnetoelectric effect are accessed all electrically relying on the spin Hall magnetoresistance effect in the Pt electrode interfaced with Cr2O3 [6]. In line with the integral magnetometry measurements, the magnetotransport characterization reveals that the samples possesses the magnetic phase transition temperature of about 308 K, which is hardly affected by the formed defects. The antiferromagnetic domain patterns consist of small domains with size equals the grain size, which is formed due to the granular structure of the samples. Furthermore, the presence of larger defects like grain boundaries has a strong influence on the pinning of magnetic domain walls in studied samples. The possibility to access the magnetoelectric properties of the samples relying on magnetotransport measurements indicates the potential of the thin films and polycrystalline bulk Cr2O3 samples for prospective research in antiferromagnetic spintronics.
[1] X. He, Y. Wang, N. Wu, A. N. Caruso, E. Vescovo, K. D. Belashchenko, P. A. Dowben, C. Binek, Nature Mater., 9, 579 (2010).
[2] T. Kosub, M. Kopte, R. Hühne, P. Appel, B. Shields, P. Maletinsky, R. Hübner, M. O. Liedke, J. Fassbender, O. G. Schmidt, D. Makarov, Nature Commun., 8, 13985 (2017).
[3] N. Hedrich, K. Wagner, O. V. Pylypovskyi, B. J. Shields, T. Kosub, D. D. Sheka, D. Makarov, P. Maletinsky, Nature Phys., 17, 574 (2021).
[4] I. Veremchuk, M. O. Liedke, P. Makushko, T. Kosub, N. Hedrich, O. V. Pylypovskyi, F. Ganss, M. Butterling, R. Hübner, E. Hirschmann, A. G. Attallah, A. Wagner, K. Wagner, B. Shields, P. Maletinsky, J. Fassbender, D. Makarov, Small, 18, 2201228 (2022).
[5] I. Veremchuk, P. Makushko, N. Hedrich, Y. Zabila, T. Kosub, M. O. Liedke, M. Butterling, A. G. Attallah, A. Wagner, U. Burkhardt, O. V. Pylypovskyi, R. Hübner, J. Fassbender, P. Maletinsky, and D. Makarov, ACS Appl. Electron. Mater., 4, 2943 (2022).
[6] R. Schlitz, T. Kosub, A. Thomas, S. Fabretti, K. Nielsch, D. Makarov, S. T. B. Goennenwein, Appl. Phys. Lett., 112, 132401 (2018).

Involved research facilities

  • P-ELBE
  • Lecture (Conference)
    CMD30 FisMat, 04.-08.09.2023, Milan, Italy


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