Spin-transfer torque switched magnetic tunnel junctions in magnetic random access memory
Spin-transfer torque (or spin-torque, or STT) based magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) is at the heart of a new generation of magnetism-based solid-state memory, the so-called spin-transfer-torque magnetic random access memory, or STT-MRAM. Over the past decades, STT-based switchable magnetic tunnel junction has seen progress on many fronts, including the discovery of (001) MgO as the most favored tunnel barrier, which together with (bcc) Fe or FeCo alloy are yielding best demonstrated tunnel magneto-resistance (TMR); the development of perpendicularly magnetized ultrathin CoFeB-type of thin films sufficient to support high density memories with junction sizes demonstrated down to 11nm in diameter; and record-low spin-torque switching threshold current, giving best reported switching efficiency over 5 kBT/μA. Here we review the basic device properties focusing on the perpendicularly magnetized MTJs, both in terms of switching efficiency as measured by sub-threshold, quasi-static methods, and of switching speed at super-threshold, forced switching. We focus on device behaviors important for memory applications that are rooted in fundamental device physics, which highlights the trade-off of device parameters for best suitable system integration.