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Measurement of femtometre-scale atomic displacements by X-ray absorption spectroscopy


The frequencies of extended X-ray absorption fine-structure (EXAFS)1 measurements, which are oscillations occurring on the high-energy side of an X-ray absorption edge, can be used to identify interatomic distances in materials. We have used a dispersive X-ray spectrometer2,3,4,5, which has no moving components, to make rapid measurements with minimal energy drift of the difference in EXAFS from the Fe K edge in an iron-cobalt thin film undergoing periodic strain through magnetostriction6,7. We show that magnetostriction can be detected by differential X-ray absorption. The magnitude of the recorded signal relative to the noise shows a sensitivity to mean differential atomic motion of one femtometre: a factor of 100 times more sensitive than that normally available8,9.

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Figure 1: A schematic of the experimental layout.
Figure 2: The magnetostrictive differential EXAFS signal.
Figure 3: The main contributions to the calculated fine structure.


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We wish to acknowledge R. Weigel, S. Pasternak, A. Sheffield, A. Lovejoy, P. Pinel, M. Borowski and M.-C. Dominguez for their assistance in performing this experiment, or one of its precursors. R.F.P. thanks the ESRF for hosting a sabbatical leave from the University of Warwick and T. F. Jeranko, M. Ruffoni and R. Dupree for discussions.Authors' contributions R.F.P. conceived the idea, took part in all of the experiments, constructed the theory, performed the calculations and wrote the paper. O.M. took part in all of the experiments, including the unsuccessful precursors and operated ID24. S.P. stabilized ID24, took part in the final measurement and performed major editing of the paper. M.D.C. made the specimens and took part in some of the measurements. M.R.J.G. provided facilities for making the samples, provided magnetostriction expertise and took part in the final measurement.

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Correspondence to Robert F. Pettifer.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods S1

Discussion of data acquisition and treatment. (DOC 23 kb)

Supplementary Methods S2

Discussion of the film preparation and characterization. (DOC 18 kb)

Supplementary Methods S3

Discussion of the origins and approximations used in the derivation of Eqtn. 2. (DOC 40 kb)

Supplementary Methods S4

Discussion of the details involved in the calculation of the differential fine structure. (DOC 1853 kb)

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Pettifer, R., Mathon, O., Pascarelli, S. et al. Measurement of femtometre-scale atomic displacements by X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Nature 435, 78–81 (2005).

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