Topological insulator based spin valve devices: Evidence for spin polarized transport of spin-momentum-locked topological surface states

Jifa Tian, Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center
Isaac Childres, Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center
Helin Cao, Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center
Tian Shen, Purdue University
Ireneusz Miotkowski, Purdue University
Yong P. Chen, Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center

Date of this Version



Spin-momentum helical locking is one of the most important properties of the nontrivial topological surface states (TSS) in 3D topological insulators (TIs). It underlies the iconic topological protection (suppressing elastic backscattering) of TSS and is foundational to many exotic physics (e.g., majorana fermions) and device applications (e.g., spintronics) predicted for TIs. Based on this spin-momentum locking, a current flowing on the surface of a TI would be spin-polarized in a characteristic in-plane direction perpendicular to the current, and the spin-polarization would reverse when the current direction reverses. Observing such a spin-helical current in transport measurements is a major goal in TI research and applications. We report spin-dependent transport measurements in spin valve devices fabricated from exfoliated thin flakes of Bi2Se3 (a prototype 3D TI) with ferromagnetic (FM) Ni contacts. Applying an in-plane magnetic (B) field to polarize the Ni contacts along their easy axis, we observe an asymmetry in the hysteretic magnetoresistance (MR) between opposite B field directions. The "polarity" of the asymmetry in MR can be reversed by reversing the direction of the DC current. The observed asymmetric MR can be understood as a spin-valve effect between the current-induced spin polarization on the TI surface (due to spin-momentum-locking of TSS) and the spin-polarized ferromagnetic contacts. Our results provide a direct transport evidence for the spin helical current in TSS. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology