Magnetic domains and the walls between are the subject of great interest because of the role they play in determining the electrical properties of ferromagnetic materials and as a means of manipulating electron spin in spintronic devices. However, much less attention has been paid to these effects in antiferromagnets, primarily because there is less awareness of their existence in antiferromagnets, and in addition they are hard to probe since they exhibit no net magnetic moment. In this paper, we discuss the electrical properties of chromium, which is the only elemental antiferromagnet and how they depend on the subtle arrangement of the antiferromagnetically ordered spins. X-ray measurement of the modulation wavevector Q of the incommensurate antiferromagnetic spin-density wave shows thermal hysteresis, with the corresponding wavelength being larger during cooling than during warming. The thermal hysteresis in the Q vector is accompanied with a thermal hysteresis in both the longitudinal and Hall resistivity. During cooling, we measure a larger longitudinal and Hall resistivity compared with when warming, which indicates that a larger wavelength at a given temperature corresponds to a smaller carrier density or equivalently a larger antiferromagnetic ordering parameter compared to a smaller wavelength. This shows that the arrangement of the antiferromagnetic spins directly influences the transport properties. In thin films, the sign of the thermal hysteresis for Q is the same as in thick films, but a distinct aspect is that Q is quantized.
One contribution of 10 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘The spin on electronics’.
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