Bringing new or improved magnetic sensors to market requires modeling for rapid assessment of the effect of new designs or improved materials properties. To this end, we are investigating the fundamental properties of a new class of magnetic sensors that is rapidly displacing ones based on older technology. The new sensors are based on Magnetic Tunnel Junctions (MTJs) which use the Tunneling Magnetoresistance Effect (TMR). To optimize MTJs, NIST has purchased an instrument that diagnoses the TMR properties early in the fabrication process to maximize efficient use of time.
These instruments are not widely available, and NIST is beginning to serve as a clearing house for MTJ testing by offering diagnosis of MTJs of outside groups. The resulting collaborations with small companies, universities, and national labs are allowing NIST to lead the world in non-proprietary MTJ research. The leverage made possible by these collaborations is making the work successful beyond anything that would be possible if NIST were to operate independently in magnetic sensor research.