Current Density Limitations of Spin-Valves

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Engineering, Electrical Engineering


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Major Advisor

Susan L. Burkett


The introduction of the spin-valve into electronic devices has added an entirely new dimension to the field of electronics. Circuits that once relied upon the charge of a moving electron now can utilize the spin characteristics of the electron as well. Although a relatively new invention, the spin-valve has been proposed as the core component of many revolutionary devices, such as spin dependent transistors and magnetic random access memory cells (MRAM). This device has already been incorporated into sensor circuitry for sensing magnetic fields and motion, as well as being used as the key component for hard drive read heads. As with most new electronic devices, the operating limits are constantly being explored and expanded, with the purpose of making better devices. As such, it is necessary to push the devices beyond their operating limits in order to gain a better understanding of how they function and what mechanisms are involved when they fail. A fundamental limitation of spin-valves is the current density they can sustain, and the magnitude of the damage that may result if these devices are operated at high current levels for a sustained time period. Prediction of these parameters is a very difficult prospect. As with most magnetic devices, a working knowledge is gained through experimentation. This experimentation is the focus of this thesis.

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