Current-induced spin-orbit torques

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2011 Aug 13;369(1948):3175-97. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0336.


The ability to reverse the magnetization of nanomagnets by current injection has attracted increased attention ever since the spin-transfer torque mechanism was predicted in 1996. In this paper, we review the basic theoretical and experimental arguments supporting a novel current-induced spin torque mechanism taking place in ferromagnetic (FM) materials. This effect, hereafter named spin-orbit (SO) torque, is produced by the flow of an electric current in a crystalline structure lacking inversion symmetry, which transfers orbital angular momentum from the lattice to the spin system owing to the combined action of SO and exchange coupling. SO torques are found to be prominent in both FM metal and semiconducting systems, allowing for great flexibility in adjusting their orientation and magnitude by proper material engineering. Further directions of research in this field are briefly outlined.