For many decades, the revolution in semiconductor industry has continuously been powered by the successful down scaling of complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology to produce integrated circuits with improved performance at lower cost. However, current charge-based CMOS technology is already approaching physical limits and, thus, encounters a number of technological challenges. Spintronics is an emerging and rapidly evolving research field that has a great potential to overcome these challenges confronting CMOS by introducing the electron spin, in addition to electron charge, as an extra degree of freedom. Traditional spintronic devices are based on the alignment of spins in magnetic layers, manipulated by spin-polarized currents. Thus, employing the non-volatile nature of layer magnetization and its direction to represent the bit state, spintronics provides power-efficient devices that are attractive for memory and logic applications. Magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) is one of the most essential applications of spin based electronics, which has already been recognized as the leading candidate for future universal memory. MRAM cells use spin-based magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) as the fundamental storage blocks. These conventional MTJs employ the use of magnetic elements with a single axis of magnetization, which provide two resistance states, capable of storing one bit of information. Enhancing the memory density is one of the major challenges encountered by MRAM industry, as the straightforward approach of reducing the magnetic bit size is unfeasible with magnetic devices due to intrinsic superparamagnetism effects. In this thesis, we propose increasing the bit density in MRAM by implementing shape anisotropy induced multistate MTJs. By patterning the free ferromagnetic layer of MTJs in the shape of four intersecting ellipses we achieve four in-plane stable axes of magnetization, capable of providing eight resistance states in total, the switching between which is performed by spin-orbit torques (SOT) in spin Hall metals (SHM). We initially verify the proposed concept with micromagnetic simulations followed by fabrication and, consequent, room temperature characterization of the first experimental prototypes.
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|KAUST Research Repository