We have measured the distribution of switching times in spin-transfer switching induced by fast current pulses in two pillar-shaped systems: (i) spin valves and (ii) MgO-based magnetic tunnel junctions. (i) Spin valves can sustain high currents, such that the application of pulsed currents of amplitude a few times that of the static switching threshold is possible. This makes subnanosecond switching within reach. In that limit, the pulse durations leading to switching follow a multiply stepped distribution at 300 K and a regular distribution at 40 K. At 300 K, this reflects the precessional nature of the switching, which proceeds through a small number of precession cycles. The switching time distribution can be modeled from the thermal variance of the initial magnetization orientations. At 40 K, nonuniform magnetization switching occurs. (ii) In MgO-based tunnel junctions, we could follow individual time-resolved switching events with a 13 GHz bandwidth. The switching proceeds through a nanosecond-scale random incubation delay during which the resistance is quiet, followed by a sudden (400 ps duration) transition terminated by a pronounced ringing that is damped within 1.5 ns. While the incubation delay is probabilistic, the following time dependence of the resistance is reproducible.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)