General theory of angular momentum exchange in heterostructures proposed: new paper online

Theory of current-induced angular momentum transfer dynamics in spin-orbit coupled systems

Dongwook Go, Frank Freimuth, Jan-Philipp Hanke, Fei Xue, Olena Gomonay, Kyung-Jin Lee, Stefan Blügel, Paul M. Haney, Hyun-Woo Lee, and Yuriy Mokrousov
Phys. Rev. Research 2, 033401 – Published 14 September 2020

Motivated by the importance of understanding various competing mechanisms to the current-induced spin-orbit torque on magnetization in complex magnets, we develop a theory of current-induced spin-orbital coupled dynamics in magnetic heterostructures. The theory describes angular momentum transfer between different degrees of freedom in solids, e.g., the electron orbital and spin, the crystal lattice, and the magnetic order parameter. Based on the continuity equations for the spin and orbital angular momenta, we derive equations of motion that relate spin and orbital current fluxes and torques describing the transfer of angular momentum between different degrees of freedom, achieved in a steady state under an applied external electric field. We then propose a classification scheme for the mechanisms of the current-induced torque in magnetic bilayers. We evaluate the sources of torque using density functional theory, effectively capturing the impact of the electronic structure on these quantities. We apply our formalism to two different magnetic bilayers, Fe/W(110) and Ni/W(110), which are chosen such that the orbital and spin Hall effects in W have opposite sign and the resulting spin- and orbital-mediated torques can compete with each other. We find that while the spin torque arising from the spin Hall effect of W is the dominant mechanism of the current-induced torque in Fe/W(110), the dominant mechanism in Ni/W(110) is the orbital torque originating in the orbital Hall effect of the nonmagnetic substrate. Thus, the effective spin Hall angles for the total torque are negative and positive in the two systems. Our prediction can be experimentally identified in moderately clean samples, where intrinsic contributions dominate. This clearly demonstrates that our formalism is ideal for studying the angular momentum transfer dynamics in spin-orbit coupled systems as it goes beyond the “spin current picture” by naturally incorporating the spin and orbital degrees of freedom on an equal footing. Our calculations reveal that, in addition to the spin and orbital torque, other contributions such as the interfacial torque and self-induced anomalous torque within the ferromagnet are not negligible in both material systems.

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