Spin-transfer Torque in Magnetic Nanostructures

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Xiao, Jiang
Zangwill, Andrew
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This thesis consists of three distinct components: (1) a test of Slocnzewski's theory of spin-transfer torque using the Boltzmann equation, (2) a comparison of macrospin models of spin-transfer dynamics in spin valves with experimental data, and (3) a study of spin-transfer torque in continuously variable magnetization. Slonczewski developed a simple circuit theory for spin-transfer torque in spin valves with thin spacer layer. We developed a numerical method to calculate the spin-transfer torque in a spin valve using Boltzmann equation. In almost all realistic cases, the circuit theory predictions agree well with the Boltzmann equation results. To gain a better understanding of experimental results for spin valve systems, current-induced magnetization dynamics for a spin valve are studied using a single-domain approximation and a generalized Landau-Lifshitz-Gilbert equation. Many features of the experiment were reproduced by the simulations. However, there are two significant discrepancies: the current dependence of the magnetization precession frequency, and the presence and/or absence of a microwave quiet magnetic phase with a distinct magnetoresistance signature. Spin-transfer effects in systems with continuously varying magnetization also have attracted much attention. One key question is under what condition is the spin current adiabatic, i.e., aligned to the local magnetization. Both quantum and semi-classical calculations of the spin current and spin-transfer torque are done in a free-electron Stoner model. The calculation shows that, in the adiabatic limit, the spin current aligns to the local magnetization while the spin density does not. The reason is found in an effective field produced by the gradient of the magnetization in the wall. Non-adiabatic effects arise for short domain walls, but their magnitude decreases exponentially as the wall width increases.
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