Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Detection of magnetic circular dichroism using a transmission electron microscope


A material is said to exhibit dichroism if its photon absorption spectrum depends on the polarization of the incident radiation. In the case of X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD), the absorption cross-section of a ferromagnet or a paramagnet in a magnetic field changes when the helicity of a circularly polarized photon is reversed relative to the magnetization direction. Although similarities between X-ray absorption and electron energy-loss spectroscopy in a transmission electron microscope (TEM) have long been recognized, it has been assumed that extending such equivalence to circular dichroism would require the electron beam in the TEM to be spin-polarized. Recently, it was argued on theoretical grounds that this assumption is probably wrong1. Here we report the direct experimental detection of magnetic circular dichroism in a TEM. We compare our measurements of electron energy-loss magnetic chiral dichroism (EMCD) with XMCD spectra obtained from the same specimen that, together with theoretical calculations, show that chiral atomic transitions in a specimen are accessible with inelastic electron scattering under particular scattering conditions. This finding could have important consequences for the study of magnetism on the nanometre and subnanometre scales, as EMCD offers the potential for such spatial resolution down to the nanometre scale while providing depth information—in contrast to X-ray methods, which are mainly surface-sensitive.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Scattering geometry.
Figure 2: X-ray magnetic circular dichroism.
Figure 3: Energy-loss magnetic chiral dichroism.


  1. Hébert, C. & Schattschneider, P. A proposal for dichroic experiments in the electron microscope. Ultramicroscopy 96, 463–468 (2003)

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Thole, B. P. et al. X-ray circular dichroism as a probe of orbital magnetization. Phys. Rev. Lett. 68, 1943–1946 (1992)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Carra, P. et al. X-ray circular dichroism and local magnetic fields. Phys. Rev. Lett. 70, 694–697 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. van der Laan, G. et al. Experimental proof of magnetic X-ray dichroism. Phys. Rev. B 34, 6529–6531 (1986)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Schütz, G. et al. Absorption of circularly polarized X-rays in iron. Phys. Rev. Lett. 58, 737–740 (1987)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Chen, C. T. et al. Experimental confirmation of the X-ray magnetic circular dichroism sum rules for iron and cobalt. Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 152–155 (1995)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Ohldag, H. et al. Spectroscopic identification and direct imaging of interfacial magnetic spins. Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 247201–247204 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Wu, Y. Z. et al. Enhanced orbital magnetic moment on co atoms in Co/Pd multilayers: a magnetic circular X-ray dichroism study. Phys. Rev. Lett. 69, 2307–2310 (1992)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Tischer, M. et al. Enhancement of orbital magnetism at surfaces: Co on Cu(100). Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 1602–1605 (1995)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Won, C. et al. Magnetic phase transition in Co/Cu/Ni/Cu(100) and Co/Fe/Ni/Cu(100). Phys. Rev. Lett. 91, 147202–147205 (1993)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Weller, D. et al. Microscopic origin of magnetic anisotropy in Au/Co/Au probed with X-ray magnetic circular dichroism. Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 3752–3755 (1995)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Vogel, J. & Sacchi, M. Magnetic moments in as-deposited and annealed Ni layers on Fe(001): an x-ray-dichroism study. Phys. Rev. B 53, 3409–3414 (1996)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Stöhr, J. Exploring the microscopic origin of magnetic anisotropies with X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) spectroscopy. J. Magn. Magn. Mater. 200, 470–497 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Stöhr, J. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy of transition metal thin films. J. Electron Spectrosc. Related Phenom. 75, 253–272 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Yuan, J. & Menon, N. K. Magnetic linear dichroism in electron energy loss spectroscopy. J. Appl. Phys. 81, 5087–5089 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hitchcock, A. P. Near edge electron energy loss spectroscopy: comparison to X-ray absorption. Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 32 (suppl. 2), 176–181 (1992)

    MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  17. Kohl, H. & Rose, H. Theory of image formation by inelastically scattered electrons in the electron microscope. Adv. Electron. Electron Phys. 65, 173–227 (1985)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Blaha, P., Schwarz, K., Madsen, G. K. H., Kvasnicka, D. & Luitz, J. An Augmented Plane Wave and Local Orbitals Program for Calculating Crystal Properties (ed. Schwarz, K.) (Technical University of Wien, Vienna, 2001)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Nelhiebel, M., Schattschneider, P. & Jouffrey, B. Observation of ionization in a crystal interferometer. Phys. Rev. Lett. 85, 1847–1850 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Nelhiebel, M. et al. Theory of orientation sensitive near-edge fine structure core-level spectroscopy. Phys. Rev. B 59, 10959–10969 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Mathur, N. & Littlewood, P. Mesoscopic texture in manganites. Phys. Today 56, 25–30 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank E. Bauer and S. Buehler-Paschen for discussions. This work was supported by the European Union under the project CHIRALTEM. Author Contributions P.S. and C.H. had the idea to do this experiment and developed the principles; P.S. wrote the manuscript; S.R. performed the experiment on the TEM and adapted the EMCD program; J.R. was the principal developer of the EMCD program; J.K. helped substantially in debugging the EMCD program; P.N. generalized two programs contained in the WIEN2k package that were used in the EMCD program and helped in its debugging and implementation; E.C. produced and characterized the TEM substrates; M.F. grew the iron films and ran XMCD and magneto-optic Kerr effect experiments; G.P. and G.R. coordinated the work at the synchrotron and the XMCD data analysis. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to P. Schattschneider.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Notes

This file contains Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Figures 1–3 and Supplementary Equations. This file also contains additional references. (PDF 280 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schattschneider, P., Rubino, S., Hébert, C. et al. Detection of magnetic circular dichroism using a transmission electron microscope. Nature 441, 486–488 (2006).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing