Skyrmions are topologically protected nanoscale magnetic structures with a wide range of potential applications. Here we determine the life cycle of skyrmions from their creation to their intrinsic dynamics and thermal stability to their eventual thermodynamic demise. Using atomistic simulations of Ir/Co/Pt, parameterized from ab initio calculations, we demonstrate the thermal phase transition to a skyrmion state under application of a perpendicular magnetic field. The created skyrmions exhibit Brownian particlelike dynamics driven by the underlying thermal spin fluctuations. At an elevated temperature window well below the Curie temperature, the skyrmions are metastable and can collapse to a uniform magnetic state. With application of an external magnetic field, the intrinsic local thermal spin fluctuations at this elevated temperature window are sufficiently large to allow the spontaneous formation of new skyrmions in thermodynamic equilibrium analogous to a spontaneous skyrmion gas. Such a system could be used to implement a skyrmion-based true random number generator.
©2021 American Physical Society. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details