Direct electronic measurement of the spin Hall effect

Nature. 2006 Jul 13;442(7099):176-9. doi: 10.1038/nature04937.


The generation, manipulation and detection of spin-polarized electrons in nanostructures define the main challenges of spin-based electronics. Among the different approaches for spin generation and manipulation, spin-orbit coupling--which couples the spin of an electron to its momentum--is attracting considerable interest. In a spin-orbit-coupled system, a non-zero spin current is predicted in a direction perpendicular to the applied electric field, giving rise to a spin Hall effect. Consistent with this effect, electrically induced spin polarization was recently detected by optical techniques at the edges of a semiconductor channel and in two-dimensional electron gases in semiconductor heterostructures. Here we report electrical measurements of the spin Hall effect in a diffusive metallic conductor, using a ferromagnetic electrode in combination with a tunnel barrier to inject a spin-polarized current. In our devices, we observe an induced voltage that results exclusively from the conversion of the injected spin current into charge imbalance through the spin Hall effect. Such a voltage is proportional to the component of the injected spins that is perpendicular to the plane defined by the spin current direction and the voltage probes. These experiments reveal opportunities for efficient spin detection without the need for magnetic materials, which could lead to useful spintronics devices that integrate information processing and data storage.