Using ab initio electronic structure calculations, we have investigated the effect of an electric field and of a heavy-metal cap of Pd on the magnetocrystalline anisotropy (MCA) of FePd ultrathin film. Analysis of the energy- and k-resolved distribution of the orbital character of the minority-spin band reveals that the perpendicular MCA of the uncapped film mainly arises from the spin-orbit coupling (SOC) between unoccupied Fe dxy and occupied Fe dx2-y2 states. On the other hand, the SOC between the Pd- and Fe-derived d states yields negative contributions to the MCA. We find that the sensitivity of the surface anisotropy energy to the applied electric field is 18 fJ/(Vm) and is due to changes in the occupation of the surface Fe atoms dx2-y2 and (dxz,dyz) orbitals. We demonstrate that the thickness of the Pd cap has a dramatic effect on the MCA and can even switch the magnetization from out-of- to in-plane orientation. The underlying origin is the change of the position and orbital character of the spin-polarized quantum well states induced in the Pd cap by varying its thickness. These results have important implications for exploiting heavy metals with large spin-orbit coupling (Ru, Pd, Ta, Pt, or Au) as contacts with ferromagnetic thin films to tailor the magnetic switching of spintronic devices by tuning the cap thickness.
|Physical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
|Published - Mar 24 2014
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics