Collective spin excitations can propagate in magnetically ordered materials in the form of waves. These so-called spin waves (SWs) or magnons are promising for low-power beyond-CMOS information processing, which does not rely anymore on the lossy movement of electric charges. SWs in the few GHz frequency regime possess nanoscale wavelengths about five orders of magnitude smaller than electromagnetic waves of the same frequency. This property makes SWs ideally suited for application in microwave technology, essential for on-chip processing of wireless telecommunication signals. In this thesis, three crucial challenges relevant for the technological application of SWs are addressed:
First, to functionalize SWs and exploit their small wavelengths, it is necessary to control them at the nanoscale. Here, periodically nanostructured materials, denoted magnonic crystals, are promising, as they allow to tailor the band structure of SWs. We report on SWs propagating in a prototypical one-dimensional magnonic crystal consisting of dipolarly coupled magnetic nanostripes. The remanent magnetization of individual stripes was designed to be bistable along the long axis. By magnetizing an individual stripe in opposite direction to the others, we created a magnetic defect. We measured by means of all-electrical spin wave spectroscopy and Brillouin light scattering microscopy phase and amplitude of SWs trespassing the defect. We found that SW phases and amplitudes were modified at the nanoscale, and phase shifts could be tuned by an applied bias magnetic field. Using micromagnetic simulations, we identified specific bias fields for which phase shifts of Pi are achieved without suppressing SW amplitudes. This result is highly relevant for the implementation of logic gates based on interference of phase-controlled SWs. We further measured propagation of short-waved SWs in an antiferromagnetically ordered one-dimensional magnonic crystal, where every second stripe was magnetized in opposite direction. We found a band gap closing at the Brillouin zone boundary when no magnetic bias field was applied. Our observations are promising for reprogrammable microwave filters capable of adjusting stop- and passband.
Second, we address how long-waved electromagnetic waves can be coupled efficiently to nanoscale SWs. We demonstrate by space- and time-resolved scanning X-ray transmission measurements, that excited nanogratings allow to transfer their reciprocal lattice vector and multiple of it to an underlying magnetic thin film, in which nanoscale propagating SWs are launched. Additionally, we discovered a second method for short-waved SW generation based on magnetic microwave guides. This approach is easy to fabricate and relies on the adaption of the SW wavelength to a changing effective magnetic field. Efficient coupling of electromagnetic waves to nanoscale SWs promises an unprecedented miniaturization of microwave components.
Third, we found that the magnetization direction of bistable nanomagnets can be switched by propagating SWs in an underlying magnetic thin film when a threshold amplitude is reached. This discovery is promising for the realization of a non-volatile magnonic memory, which stores SW amplitudes. A possible application are SW logic gates, which encode the outcome of a logic operation in the output SW amplitude. Magnonic memory would allow for storing these amplitudes directly, without requiring lossy conversion into the electrical domain.EPFL