The presence of spin-orbit coupling affects the spontaneously flowing persistent currents in mesoscopic conducting rings. Here we analyze their dependence on magnetic flux with emphasis on identifying possibilities to prove the presence and extract the strength of Rashba spin splitting in low-dimensional systems. Effects of disorder and mixing between quasi-one-dimensional ring subbands are considered. The spin-orbit coupling strength can be inferred from the values of flux where sign changes occur in the persistent charge current. As an important consequence of the presence of spin splitting, we identify a nontrivial persistent spin current that is not simply proportional to the charge current. The different flux dependences of persistent charge and spin currents are a unique signature of spin-orbit coupling affecting the electronic structure of the ring.
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