Electric breakdown in ultrathin MgO tunnel barrier junctions for spin-transfer torque switching

Schäfers, M.; Drewello, V.; Reiss, G.; Thomas, A.; Thiel, K.; Eilers, G.; Münzenberg, M.; Schuhmann, H.; Seibt, M.
December 2009
Applied Physics Letters;12/7/2009, Vol. 95 Issue 23, p232119
Academic Journal
Magnetic tunnel junctions for spin-transfer torque (STT) switching are prepared to investigate the dielectric breakdown. Intact and broken tunnel junctions are characterized by transport measurements prior to transmission electron microscopy analysis. The comparison to our previous model for thicker MgO tunnel barriers reveals a different breakdown mechanism arising from the high current densities in a STT device: instead of local pinhole formation at a constant rate, massive electromigration and heating leads to displacement of the junction material and voids are appearing. This is determined by element resolved energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy and three dimensional tomographic reconstruction.


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