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The Elliott-Yafet theory of spin relaxation in nonmagnetic metals predicts proportionality between spin and momentum relaxation times for scattering centers such as phonons. Here, we test this theory in Al nanowires over a very large thickness range (8.5-300 nm), finding that the Elliott-Yafet proportionality "constant"for phonon scattering in fact exhibits a large, unanticipated finite-size effect. Supported by analytical and numerical modeling, we explain this via strong phonon-induced spin relaxation at surfaces and interfaces, driven in particular by enhanced spin-orbit coupling.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Work at the University of Minnesota (UMN) was supported primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through DMR-1807124 and DMR-2103711, with additional support from the Advanced Storage Research Committee (ASRC) and Seagate Technology Inc. Parts of this work were conducted in the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by NSF through the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure under ECCS-2025124, and in the UMN Characterization Facility, which is partially supported by NSF through the MRSEC program. Work at the University of Liverpool was supported by UK EPSRC Grants EP/P005713/1 and EP/V035134/1, and UK Royal Society Grant RGS\R2\180208.
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