Magnetic tunnel junctions have become ubiquitous components appearing in magnetic random-access memory, read heads of magnetic disk drives and semiconductor-based spin devices. Inserting a tunnel barrier has been key to achieving spin injection from ferromagnetic (FM) metals into GaAs, but spin injection into Si has remained elusive. We show that Schottky barrier formation leads to a huge conductivity mismatch of the FM tunnel contact and Si, which cannot be solved by the well-known method of adjusting the tunnel barrier thickness. We present a radically different approach for spin-tunnelling resistance control using low-work-function ferromagnets, inserted at the FM/tunnel barrier interface. We demonstrate that in this way the resistance–area (RA) product of FM/Al2O3/Si contacts can be tuned over eight orders of magnitude, while simultaneously maintaining a reasonable tunnel spin polarization. This raises prospects for Si-based spintronics and presents a new category of ferromagnetic materials for spin-tunnel contacts in low-RA-product applications.
Min, B. C., Motohashi, K., Lodder, J. C., & Jansen, R. (2006). Tunable spin-tunnel contacts to silicon using low-work-function ferromagnets. Nature materials, 5(suppl 2), 817-822. [10.1038/nmat1736]. https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat1736