Using ab initio electronic structure calculations we have investigated the effect of the thickness of a heavy-metal (HM) cap on the magnetic anisotropy of the Cu/FeCo/HM(n) thin film where HM = Hf and Ta with thicknesses of n=0-10 monolayers (MLs). We find that the Hf cap results in a large perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA), which exhibits quasiperiodic oscillation with a period of two MLs. In contrast, the Ta-capped heterostructure exhibits a spin reorientation from out-of-plane to in-plane magnetization orientation at two MLs of Ta. Moreover, the MA remains negative and depends weakly on the Ta-cap thickness beyond the critical thickness. The underlying mechanism of the PMA oscillation is the periodic change in spin-flip spin-orbit coupling between the minority-spin Fe d(xz,yz) and majority Fe d(z2) at Γ, which is induced by the hybridization with Hf at the FeCo/Hf interface. Our results help resolve the contradictory experiments regarding the role of the FeCo/Ta interface on the PMA of the MgO/FeCo/Ta junction. The calculations reveal that the ferromagnet/Hf is promising for spintronic applications and that the capping material and thickness are additional parameters for optimizing the functional properties of spintronic devices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics