This dissertation examines several aspects of spin-dependent transport phenomena in epitaxially grown ferromagnet/n-GaAs heterostructures. Further maturation of the field of semiconductor-based spintronics is hindered by difficulties in evaluating device performance across materials systems. Using Fe/n-GaAs and Co<sub>2</sub>MnSi/n-GaAs heterostructures as a test case, the main goal of this work is to demonstrate how such difficulties may be overcome by (1) specifying a more quantitative framework for evaluating transport parameters and (2) the introduction of a new spin-to-charge conversion phenomenon which may be parameterized by bulk semiconductor parameters. In the introductory chapter, this work is placed in the broader context of developing improved methods for the generation, modulation, and detection of spins. The lateral spin-valve geometry is presented as a concrete example of the typical measurement procedures employed. Chapter 2 presents the charge-based transport properties of these samples and establishes the notation and calculation techniques to be employed in subsequent chapters. In particular, we examine in detail the calculation of the electrochemical potential for a given carrier concentration. Chapter 3 provides a full derivation of the equations governing spin-dependent transport in the large polarization regime. This is applied to the case of extracting spin lifetimes and diffusion rates, demonstrating how quantitative agreement with theoretical predictions may be obtained upon properly accounting for both device geometry and material parameters. Further examination of the boundary conditions applicable to the heterojunctions of these samples demonstrates to what extent device performance may be parameterized across materials systems. Chapter 4 presents experimental observations of a new spin-to-charge conversion phenomenon using a non-magnetic probe. In the presence of a large non-equilibrium spin accumulation, the combination of a non-constant density of states and energy-dependent conductivity generates an electromotive force (EMF). It is shown that this signal dephases in the presence of applied and hyperfine fields, scales quadratically with the polarization, and is comparable in magnitude to the spin-splitting. Since this spin-generated EMF depends only on experimentally accessible parameters of the bulk material, its magnitude is used to quantify the injected spin polarization in absolute terms, independent of any assumptions regarding the spin-resistance of the interface. Chapter 5 examines spin-dependent contributions to signals measured in the Hall geometry. In particular, a large scattering asymmetry develops in the presence of hyperfine interactions with dynamically polarized nuclei. A pulsed measurement technique is introduced which allows the polarization of the electron spin system and nuclear spin system to be manipulated independently. Based on these results, a possible mechanism is presented based on inhomogeneities in the nuclear polarization. This motivates a phenomenological model which is compared against experimental data using the modeling techniques of the previous chapters.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. Major: Physics. Advisor: Paul A. Crowell. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 123 pages, appendix A.
Geppert, Chad Christopher.
Spin-dependent transport phenomena in ferromagnet/semiconductor heterostructures.
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