Domain Wall Memory Device

  • Michael FoersterEmail author
  • O. Boulle
  • S. Esefelder
  • R. Mattheis
  • Mathias Kläui
Reference work entry


Magnetic domain walls in confined geometries have attracted much interest in the last couple of years for a number of reasons. On the one hand, new physical phenomena such as current-induced domain wall motion due to the highly debated nonadiabatic spin torque and novel spin–orbit torques have been investigated. On the other hand, the proposal of the racetrack memory concept as a universal data storage device has stimulated much research. In such a device, domain walls in magnetic nanowires are used as bits of information which can be shifted, e.g., to locate them at the position of a read head, without the need to move physically any material. The prospect of memory and logic devices has spurred an intense research, in particular into different materials with promising properties for domain walls and domain wall motion. The critical parameters to be optimized are mainly domain wall lateral sizes, directly governing the possible information density, and domain wall movement and pinning/depinning processes that determine access time and energy consumption. The ability to control and manipulate domain walls precisely opens up avenues to designing a range of novel and highly competitive devices.

In this chapter, a review of the properties of magnetic domain walls in nanowires and the possibilities to control and manipulate them is given. Precise control and efficient manipulation of domain walls is the prerequisite for any device. Different material classes and the resulting domain wall types are reviewed. The basic operations that are necessary for a device, i.e., nucleation, displacement, and detection of domain walls, are discussed for these material classes. Examples of devices using magnetic domain walls are briefly reviewed, including memory and logic applications. The first commercial nonvolatile multiturn sensor product that is based on magnetic domain walls and combines sensing and memory is described in more detail.


Domain Wall Domain Wall Motion Magnetic Tunnel Junction Perpendicular Magnetic Anisotropy Magnetic Domain Wall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

List of Abbreviations

1D, 2D, 3D

One, two, or three dimensional


Elements from the first side group in the periodic table with 3D electron in the outer shell, from Sc to Zn, in magnetic context usually Fe, Co, Ni (Mn, Cr), and their alloys


Anisotropic magnetoresistance






Current-induced domain wall motion


Current in-plane


Complementary metal oxide semiconductor


Current perpendicular to plane




Direct current


Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction


Domain wall


Domain wall generator


Extraordinary Hall effect


Fourier transform holography (with X-rays)


Giant magnetoresistance


Industrial Business Machines Corporation


In-plane spin-torque random access memory


Landau–Lifshitz–Gilbert equation




Magnetic force microscopy


Magneto-optical Kerr effect




Magnetic random access memory


Magnetic tunnel junction


NEC Corporation


Object Oriented Micromagnetic Framework


Orthogonal (perpendicular) spin-torque random access memory


Photoemission electron microscopy


Perpendicular magnetized layer, free layer, analyzing layer


Perpendicular magnetic anisotropy


Permalloy (Ni81Fe19)


IBM 305 RAMAC (random access method of accounting and control), first computer with a hard disk drive


Radio frequency


Scanning electron microscopy


Scanning electron microscopy with polarization analyzer




Spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory


Spin transfer torque


Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy


Spin wave


Total electron yield


Tunnel magnetoresistance


Transverse domain wall


Vortex domain wall


X-ray magnetic circular dichroism


X-ray magnetic circular dichroism–photoemission electron microscopy

Constants and Quantities (in the order of first occurrence)


Domain wall mobility


Vacuum permeability


Exchange constant

D, d



Electron charge


“Effective” magnetic field acting on m


Anisotropy field

Hnucleation, Hn

Nucleation magnetic field for domain walls


Propagation magnetic field for domain walls, pinning field


Walker breakdown field

jc, Jc

Critical current density


Magnetic anisotropy constant


Magnetostatic energy difference between Bloch and Néel wall; demagnetizing energy


Effective anisotropy constant


Magnetization vector


Saturation magnetization


Demagnetizing factors


Spin polarization


Room temperature




Curie temperature


Effective velocity




Damping constant




Gyromagnetic ratio


Out-of-plane spin-canting angle

λex, Λ

Exchange length


Spin-flip length



We thank F. Büttner, A. Bisig, and C. Moutafis for help with various parts of the text and I. Berber for her support. We thank D. Hinzke and U. Nowak for permission to use Fig. 16 and D. Ravelosona for permission to use Figs. 8 and 9.

The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support by the DFG (SFB 767, SPP Graphene, SPP SpinCaT, KL1811), the Landesstiftung Baden Württemberg, the European Research Council via its Starting Independent Researcher Grant (Grant No. ERC-2007-Stg 208162) and Proof-of-Concept Grant schemes, EU RTN SPINSWITCH (MRTN-CT2006035327), the EU IP project IFOX (NMP3-LA-2010 246102), the EU STREP project MAGWIRE (FP7-ICT-2009-5 257707), the EU STREP project MoQuas (FP7-ICT-2013-10 610449), the EU ITN WALL (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN 608031), the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the Graduate School of Excellence Materials Science in Mainz (MAINZ – GSC 266).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Foerster
    • 1
    Email author
  • O. Boulle
    • 2
  • S. Esefelder
    • 3
  • R. Mattheis
    • 3
  • Mathias Kläui
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PhysicsJohannes Gutenberg-University MainzMainzGermany
  2. 2.Laboratoire SpinTecCEAGrenobleFrance
  3. 3.Leibniz Institute of Photonic TechnologyJenaGermany

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