Thermal Conductivity of Oxide Tunnel Barriers in Magnetic Tunnel Junctions Measured by Ultrafast Thermoreflectance and Magneto-Optic Kerr Effect Thermometry

Hyejin Jang, Luca Marnitz, Torsten Huebner, Johannes Kimling, Timo Kuschel, David G. Cahill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Spin-dependent charge transport in magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) can be manipulated by a temperature gradient, which can be utilized for spintronic and spin caloritronic applications. Evaluation of the thermally induced phenomena requires knowledge of the temperature differences across the oxide tunnel barrier adjacent to the ferromagnetic (FM) leads. However, it is challenging to accurately measure thermal properties of an oxide tunnel barrier consisting of only a few atomic layers. In this work, we experimentally interrogate the temperature evolutions in Ru/oxide/FM/seed/MgO (oxide = MgO, MgAl2O4; FM = Co, Co40Fe40B20; seed = Pt, Ta) structures having perpendicular magnetic anisotropy using ultrafast thermometry. The Ru layer is optically thick and heated by ultrafast laser pulses; the subsequent temperature changes are monitored using the thermoreflectance of Ru and magneto-optic Kerr effect (MOKE) of the FM layers. We independently measure the response times of Co and Co-Fe-B magnetism using quadratic MOKE and obtain τe-m=0.2 ps for Co and 2-ps for Co-Fe-B. These time scales are much shorter than the time scale of heat transport through the oxide tunnel barrier, which occurs at 10-3000-ps. We determine effective thermal conductivities of MgO and MgAl2O4 tunnel barriers in the range of 0.4-0.6-W-m-1-K-1, comparable with an estimate of the series thermal conductance of the Ru/oxide and oxide/FM interfaces and an order of magnitude smaller than the thermal conductivity of MgO thin films. We find that the electron-phonon thermal conductance near the tunnel barrier is only a factor of 5-12 larger than the thermal conductance of the oxide tunnel barrier. Therefore, the drop in the electronic temperature is approximately 20%-30% larger than the drop in the phonon temperature across the tunnel barrier.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024007
JournalPhysical Review Applied
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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