The control of the magnetism of ultra-thin ferromagnetic layers using an electric field, rather than a current, has many potential technologically important applications. It is usually insisted that such control occurs via an electric field induced surface charge doping that modifies the magnetic anisotropy. However, it remains the case that a number of key experiments cannot be understood within such a scenario. Much studied is the spin-splitting of the conduction electrons of non-magnetic metals or semi-conductors due to the Rashba spin-orbit coupling. This reflects a large surface electric field. For a magnet, this same splitting is modified by the exchange field resulting in a large magnetic anisotropy energy via the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya mechanism. This different, yet traditional, path to an electrically induced anisotropy energy can explain the electric field, thickness, and material dependence reported in many experiments.
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