Electron beam stimulated spin reorientation

Electron Physics Group, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899
Journal of Applied Physics (Impact Factor: 2.18). 06/2003; 93(10):8241 - 8243. DOI: 10.1063/1.1556250
Source: IEEE Xplore


Using scanning electron microscopy with polarization analysis, we observed the electron beam induced switching of the magnetic state of epitaxial single-crystal Fe(110) films grown on atomically flat cleaved GaAs(110). For low film thickness the magnetization lies along the [-110] in-plane direction, while above a thickness of 19 monolayers, the ground state magnetization configuration switches to the [001] in-plane direction. If Fe films are grown to a thickness greater than the critical thickness of the reorientation, the magnetization is caught in a metastable state, oriented along [-110]. We discovered that we can locally switch the metastable state to the stable [001] direction by irradiating the metastable magnetic state with a suitable electron current density. The reversal proceeds by the nucleation and growth of lancet-shaped domains that move in discrete jumps between pinning sites. Our results show that there is a permanent reduction of the strength of defect sites without a permanent change in the overall anisotropy. We demonstrate how an electron beam can be used to locally control domain structure.

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    ABSTRACT: The microscopic structure of the 90° in-plane magnetic reorientation transition in Fe(110) films is examined using photoemission x-ray microscopy. At the nanoscale, sharp magnetic boundaries are detected. They are indicative of a first-order transition and are consistent with Fe magnetic anisotropy constants. At the micron scale, the magnetic boundary breaks up into triangular patterns whose characteristic angular dependence is revealed by experiments on conical microwedges. This effect, fully accounted by micromagnetic simulations, opens the possibility to control the sharpness of the transition at the microscopic scale.
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