Current-Induced Magnetization Switching with a Spin-Polarized Scanning Tunneling Microscope

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Science  14 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5844, pp. 1537-1540
DOI: 10.1126/science.1145336

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Switching the magnetization of a magnetic bit by injection of a spin-polarized current offers the possibility for the development of innovative high-density data storage technologies. We show how individual superparamagnetic iron nanoislands with typical sizes of 100 atoms can be addressed and locally switched using a magnetic scanning probe tip, thus demonstrating current-induced magnetization reversal across a vacuum barrier combined with the ultimate resolution of spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy. Our technique allows us to separate and quantify three fundamental contributions involved in magnetization switching (i.e., current-induced spin torque, heating the island by the tunneling current, and Oersted field effects), thereby providing an improved understanding of the switching mechanism.

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