Spin dephasing by the Dyakonov-Perel mechanism in metallic films deposited on insulating substrates is revealed, and quantitatively examined by means of density functional calculations combined with a kinetic equation. The surface-to-substrate asymmetry, probed by the metal wave functions in thin films, is found to produce strong spin-orbit fields and a fast Larmor precession, giving a dominant contribution to spin decay over the Elliott-Yafet spin relaxation up to a thickness of 70 nm. The spin dephasing is oscillatory in time with a rapid (subpicosecond) initial decay. However, parts of the Fermi surface act as spin traps, causing a persistent tail signal lasting 1000 times longer than the initial decay time. It is also found that the decay depends on the direction of the initial spin polarization, resulting in a spin-dephasing anisotropy of 200% in the examined cases.
Department of Physics National and Kapodistrian University of Athens University Campus GR-157 84 Zografou, Athens