Nanometer-thick yttrium iron garnet film development and spintronics-related study

Chang, Houchen, author
Wu, Mingzhong, advisor
Celinski, Zbigniew, committee member
Field, Stuart, committee member
Marconi, Mario, committee member
Patton, Carl, committee member
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In the last decade, there has been a considerable interest in using yttrium iron garnet (Y3Fe5O12, YIG) materials for magnetic insulator-based spintronics studies. This interest derives from the fact that YIG materials have very low intrinsic damping. The development of YIG-based spintronics demands YIG films that have a thickness in the nanometer (nm) range and at the same time exhibit low damping similar to single-crystal YIG bulk materials. This dissertation reports comprehensive experimental studies on nm-thick YIG films by magnetron sputtering techniques. Optimization of sputtering control parameters and post-deposition annealing processes are discussed in detail. The feasibility of low-damping YIG nm-thick film growth via sputtering is demonstrated. A 22.3-nm-thick YIG film, for example, shows a Gilbert damping constant of less than 1.0 × 10-4. The demonstration is of great technological significance because sputtering is a thin film growth technique most widely used in industry. The spin Seebeck effect (SSE) refers to the generation of spin voltage in a ferromagnet (FM) due to a temperature gradient. The spin voltage can produce a pure spin current into a normal metal (NM) that is in contact with the FM. Various theoretical models have been proposed to interpret the SSE, although a complete understanding of the effect has not been realized yet. In this dissertation the study of the role of damping on the SSE in YIG thin films is conducted for the first time. With the thin film development method mentioned in the last paragraph, a series of YIG thin films showing very similar structural and static magnetic properties but rather different Gilbert damping values were prepared. A Pt capping layer was grown on each YIG film to probe the strength of the SSE. The experimental data show that the YIG films with a smaller intrinsic Gilbert damping shows a stronger SSE. The majority of the previous studies on YIG spintronics utilized YIG films that were grown on single-crystal Gd3Ga5O12 (GGG) substrates first and then capped with either a thin NM layer or a thin topological insulator (TI) layer. The use of the GGG substrates is crucial in terms of realizing high-quality YIG films, because GGG not only has a crystalline structure almost perfectly matching that of YIG but is also extremely stable at high temperature in oxygen that is the condition needed for YIG crystallization. The feasibility of growing high-quality YIG thin films on Pt thin films is explored in this dissertation. This work is of great significance because it enables the fabrication of sandwich-like NM/YIG/NM or NM/YIG/TI structures. Such tri-layered structures will facilitate various interesting fundamental studies as well as device developments. The demonstration of a magnon-mediated electric current drag phenomenon is presented as an example for such tri-layered structures.
2017 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.
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magnetic thin film
Yttrium iron garnet
spin Seebeck effect
magnetron sputtering
ferromagnetic resonance
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