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Engineered materials for all-optical helicity-dependent magnetic switching


The possibility of manipulating magnetic systems without applied magnetic fields have attracted growing attention over the past fifteen years. The low-power manipulation of the magnetization, preferably at ultrashort timescales, has become a fundamental challenge with implications for future magnetic information memory and storage technologies. Here we explore the optical manipulation of the magnetization in engineered magnetic materials. We demonstrate that all-optical helicity-dependent switching (AO-HDS) can be observed not only in selected rare earth–transition metal (RE–TM) alloy films but also in a much broader variety of materials, including RE–TM alloys, multilayers and heterostructures. We further show that RE-free Co–Ir-based synthetic ferrimagnetic heterostructures designed to mimic the magnetic properties of RE–TM alloys also exhibit AO-HDS. These results challenge present theories of AO-HDS and provide a pathway to engineering materials for future applications based on all-optical control of magnetic order.

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Figure 1: Schematic of the four types of ferromagnetic sample that have been studied and exhibit AO-HDS.
Figure 2: Examples of the two optical responses for two different samples.
Figure 3: Response to optical excitation for RE–TM alloys (GdxFeCo1−x, TbxCo1−x, DyxCo1−x, HoxFeCo1−x) and two types of RE–TM multilayer ([Tb/Co] and [Ho/CoFe]) as a function of the RE concentration (x).
Figure 4: Samples swept with circularly polarized beams (σ+ or σ ).
Figure 5: Magnetic measurements of a Ta(4 nm)/Pd(3 nm)/[Co(1 nm)/Ir/Co(0.4 nm)/Ni(0.6 nm)/Pt(0.3 nm)/Co(0.4 nm)/Ir]5/Pd(3 nm) SFI structure.


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We would like to thank M. Fuhrman and R. Tolley for technical assistance with optical measurements and fruitful discussion, and J. M. Dubois for his constant support. This work was supported by the ANR, ANR-10-BLANC-1005 ‘Friends’, and work at UCSD was partially supported by a grant from the Advanced Storage Technology Consortium and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) MURI programme. It was also supported by The Partner University Fund ‘Novel Magnetic Materials for Spin Torque Physics’ as well as the European Project (OP2M FP7-IOF-2011-298060) and the Region Lorraine. V.U. was supported by DOE, Office of Basic Energy Sciences award #DE-SC0003678.

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S.M., M.H., Y.F., M.A. and E.E.F. designed and coordinated the project; M.G., C-H.L., M.H., G.M. and S.M. grew, characterized and optimized the samples. C-H.L., D.S., L.P., S.A., V.U., M.C. and S.M. built and operated the Kerr microscope and the pump laser set-up. S.M. and E.E.F. coordinated work on the paper with contributions from D.S., M.H., S.A., M.C., M.A. and regular discussions with all authors.

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Correspondence to S. Mangin or E. E. Fullerton.

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Mangin, S., Gottwald, M., Lambert, CH. et al. Engineered materials for all-optical helicity-dependent magnetic switching. Nature Mater 13, 286–292 (2014).

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