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Probing a Device's Active Atoms

Abstract : Devices studies are often augmented by separately conducted materials science studies to achieve better insight into device operation [1–4]. In one such materials science technique called X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), the energy of soft X-ray photons is tuned so as to drive core level excitations of a specific atomic species within the sample (see Figure 1a). The resulting absorption spectrum yields information on the quantity and charge state of these atoms present, on their chemical environment and their resulting electronic/magnetic properties. When applied using the brilliance of a synchrotron facility, this technique is sensitive to minute populations of atoms, even when buried within a heterostructure. Resolving the properties of these atoms within a device built from this heterostruc-ture is in turn interpreted as providing insight into the device's performance. [2,5] As an important refinement, operando studies [6–12] alter the device's state (e.g., Materials science and device studies have, when implemented jointly as " operando " studies, better revealed the causal link between the properties of the device's materials and its operation, with applications ranging from gas sensing to information and energy technologies. Here, as a further step that maximizes this causal link, the paper focuses on the electronic properties of those atoms that drive a device's operation by using it to read out the materials property. It is demonstrated how this method can reveal insight into the operation of a macroscale, industrial-grade microelectronic device on the atomic level. A magnetic tunnel junction's (MTJ's) current, which involves charge transport across different atomic species and interfaces, is measured while these atoms absorb soft X-rays with synchrotron-grade brilliance. X-ray absorption is found to affect magnetotransport when the photon energy and linear polarization are tuned to excite FeO bonds parallel to the MTJ's interfaces. This explicit link between the device's spintronic performance and these FeO bonds, although predicted, challenges conventional wisdom on their detrimental spintronic impact. The technique opens interdisciplinary possibilities to directly probe the role of different atomic species on device operation, and shall considerably simplify the materials science iterations within device research.
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Michał Studniarek, Ufuk Halisdemir, Filip Schleicher, Beata Taudul, Etienne Urbain, et al.. Probing a Device's Active Atoms. Advanced Materials, Wiley-VCH Verlag, 2017, 29 (19), pp.1606578 - 1606578. ⟨10.1002/adma.201606578⟩. ⟨hal-01654258⟩



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