In a semiconductor, collective excitations of spin textures usually decay rather fast due to D'yakonov-Perel' spin relaxation. The latter arises from spin-orbit coupling, which induces wave-vector (k) -dependent spin rotations that, in conjunction with random disorder scattering, generate spin decoherence. However, symmetries occurring under certain conditions can prevent the relaxation of particular homogeneous and inhomogeneous spin textures. The inhomogeneous spin texture, referred to as a persistent spin helix, is especially appealing as it enables us to manipulate the spin orientation while retaining a long spin lifetime. Recently, it was predicted that such symmetries can be realized in zinc-blende two-dimensional electron gases if at least two growth-direction Miller indices agree in modulus, and the coefficients of the Rashba and k-linear Dresselhaus spin-orbit couplings are suitably matched [Kammermeier, Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 236801 (2016)PRLTAO0031-900710.1103/PhysRevLett.117.236801]. In the present paper, we systematically analyze the impact of the symmetry-breaking k-cubic Dresselhaus spin-orbit coupling, which generically coexists in these systems, on the stability of the emerging spin helices with respect to the growth direction. We find that, as an interplay between orientation and strength of the effective magnetic field induced by the k-cubic Dresselhaus terms, the spin relaxation is weakest for a low-symmetry growth direction that can be well approximated by a  lattice vector. These quantum wells yield a 30% spin-helix lifetime enhancement compared to -oriented electron gases and, remarkably, require a negligible Rashba coefficient. The rotation axis of the corresponding spin helix is only slightly tilted out of the quantum-well plane. This makes the experimental study of the spin-helix dynamics readily accessible for conventional optical spin orientation measurements where spins are excited and detected along the quantum-well growth direction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics