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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