Spin-related phenomena, such as the giant magnetoresistance and the spin-transfer torque, have led to a new era of nano-spintronics in last two decades. The discovery of these physical phenomena has contributed to a substantial increase in the data storage capacity of computers. Another revolutionary phenomenon, the interfacial Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction (DMI), was recently discovered in ultra-thin ferromagnet/heavy-metal bilayers. The DMI stabilizes nanometre-sized chiral spin textures such as Néel domain walls and hedgehog skyrmions. These chiral objects find the potential for applications in ultra-high density, low-energy, and high-speed memory devices because they are stable due to topological protection and easy to move with high efficiency. As both stability and current-driven speed of chiral spin textures are proportional to the DMI strength [A. Thiaville et al., Europhys Lett. 100, 57002 (2012); A. Fert, V. Cros, and J. Sampiao, Nat. Nanotechnol. 8, 152 (2013)], tremendous efforts are being devoted to finding high-DMI materials. In this respect, understanding the microscopic origin of DMI is of critical importance.
Here we discuss the microscopic origin of the interfacial DMI with experimental and theoretical studies as follows: First, we show the temperature dependence of the DMI for a Pt/Co/MgO trilayer; the DMI increases with decreasing temperature in a range from 300 to 100 K. To discuss this temperature dependence of the DMI, that of the spin and orbital magnetic moments of Co and Pt is studied by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) spectroscopy. We find that spin moment values of Co and Pt show temperature dependences due to change in Heisenberg exchange. Furthermore, the intra-atomic magnetic dipole moment, which is due to the asymmetric spin-density distribution, shows strong temperature dependence, suggesting a sizable modification of the charge distribution between the in-plane and the out-of-plane d-orbitals under temperature variation. We also find that the out-of-plane orbital moment shows large temperature dependence while in-plane orbital moment does not, revealing a close connection between the anisotropy of orbital moment and the DMI. The ab-initio and the tight-binding model calculations suggest that the ISB-dependent electron hopping, which gives rise to the asymmetric charge distribution at the interface of the FM/HM, is a possible microscopic origin of the correlation between the orbital anisotropy and the DMI.
Spintronics aims to utilize the coupling between charge transport and magnetic dynamics to develop improved and novel memory and logic devices. Future progress in spintronics may be enabled by exploiting the spin-orbit coupling present at the interface between thin film ferromagnets and heavy metals. In these systems, applying an in-plane electrical current can induce magnetic dynamics in single domain ferromagnets, or can induce rapid motion of domain wall magnetic textures. There are multiple effects responsible for these dynamics. They include spin-orbit torques and a chiral exchange interaction (the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction) in the ferromagnet. Both effects arise from the combination of ferromagnetism and spin-orbit coupling present at the interface. There is additionally a torque from the spin current flux impinging on the ferromagnet, arising from the spin hall effect in the heavy metal. Using first principles calculations, we identify spin-orbit hybridization at the ferromagnet-heavy metal interface as central to the spin-orbit torques present in Co-Pt bilayers. We additionally propose that the transverse spin current (from the spin hall effect) is locally enhanced over its bulk value due to scattering at an interface which is oriented normal to the charge current direction.