Giant tunneling magnetoresistance in spin-filter van der Waals heterostructures

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Science  15 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6394, pp. 1214-1218
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4851

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An intrinsic magnetic tunnel junction

An electrical current running through two stacked magnetic layers is larger if their magnetizations point in the same direction than if they point in opposite directions. These so-called magnetic tunnel junctions, used in electronics, must be carefully engineered. Two groups now show that high magnetoresistance intrinsically occurs in samples of the layered material CrI3 sandwiched between graphite contacts. By varying the number of layers in the samples, Klein et al. and Song et al. found that the electrical current running perpendicular to the layers was largest in high magnetic fields and smallest near zero field. This observation is consistent with adjacent layers naturally having opposite magnetizations, which align parallel to each other in high magnetic fields.

Science, this issue p. 1218, p. 1214


Magnetic multilayer devices that exploit magnetoresistance are the backbone of magnetic sensing and data storage technologies. Here, we report multiple-spin-filter magnetic tunnel junctions (sf-MTJs) based on van der Waals (vdW) heterostructures in which atomically thin chromium triiodide (CrI3) acts as a spin-filter tunnel barrier sandwiched between graphene contacts. We demonstrate tunneling magnetoresistance that is drastically enhanced with increasing CrI3 layer thickness, reaching a record 19,000% for magnetic multilayer structures using four-layer sf-MTJs at low temperatures. Using magnetic circular dichroism measurements, we attribute these effects to the intrinsic layer-by-layer antiferromagnetic ordering of the atomically thin CrI3. Our work reveals the possibility to push magnetic information storage to the atomically thin limit and highlights CrI3 as a superlative magnetic tunnel barrier for vdW heterostructure spintronic devices.

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