Interfacial Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya Interaction Arising From Rare-Earth Orbital Magnetism in Insulating Magnetic Oxides

Nat Commun. 2020 Feb 27;11(1):1090. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14924-7.


The Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction (DMI) is responsible for exotic chiral and topological magnetic states such as spin spirals and skyrmions. DMI manifests at metallic ferromagnet/heavy-metal interfaces, owing to inversion symmetry breaking and spin-orbit coupling by a heavy metal such as Pt. Moreover, in centrosymmetric magnetic oxides interfaced by Pt, DMI-driven topological spin textures and fast current-driven dynamics have been reported, though the origin of this DMI is unclear. While in metallic systems, spin-orbit coupling arises from a proximate heavy metal, we show that in perpendicularly-magnetized iron garnets, rare-earth orbital magnetism gives rise to an intrinsic spin-orbit coupling generating interfacial DMI at mirror symmetry-breaking interfaces. We show that rare-earth ion substitution and strain engineering can significantly alter the DMI. These results provide critical insights into the origins of chiral magnetism in low-damping magnetic oxides and identify paths toward engineering chiral and topological states in centrosymmetric oxides through rare-earth ion substitution.