The spin Hall magnetoresistance (SMR) effect arises from spin-transfer processes across the interface between a spin Hall active metal and an insulating magnet. While the SMR response of ferrimagnetic and antiferromagnetic insulators has been studied extensively, the SMR of a paramagnetic spin ensemble is not well established. Thus, we investigate herein the magnetoresistive response of the as-deposited yttrium iron garnet/platinum thin film bilayers as a function of the orientation and the amplitude of an externally applied magnetic field. Structural and magnetic characterization shows no evidence for the crystalline order or spontaneous magnetization in the yttrium iron garnet layer. Nevertheless, we observe a clear magnetoresistance response with a dependence on the magnetic field orientation characteristic for the SMR. We propose two models for the origin of the SMR response in paramagnetic insulator/platinum heterostructures. The first model describes the SMR of an ensemble of noninteracting paramagnetic moments, while the second model describes the magnetoresistance arising by considering the total net moment. Interestingly, our experimental data are consistently described by the net moment picture, in contrast to the situation in compensated ferrimagnets or antiferromagnets.

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