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Spatially resolved ultrafast magnetic dynamics initiated at a complex oxide heterointerface

Nature Materials volume 14, pages 883888 (2015) | Download Citation


Static strain in complex oxide heterostructures1,2 has been extensively used to engineer electronic and magnetic properties at equilibrium3. In the same spirit, deformations of the crystal lattice with light may be used to achieve functional control across heterointerfaces dynamically4. Here, by exciting large-amplitude infrared-active vibrations in a LaAlO3 substrate we induce magnetic order melting in a NdNiO3 film across a heterointerface. Femtosecond resonant soft X-ray diffraction is used to determine the spatiotemporal evolution of the magnetic disordering. We observe a magnetic melt front that propagates from the substrate interface into the film, at a speed that suggests electronically driven motion. Light control and ultrafast phase front propagation at heterointerfaces may lead to new opportunities in optomagnetism, for example by driving domain wall motion to transport information across suitably designed devices.

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We thank A. Frano for helpful discussions. Portions of this research were carried out on the SXR Instrument at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a division of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and an Office of Science user facility operated by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy. The SXR Instrument is financially supported by a consortium whose membership includes the LCLS, Stanford University through the Stanford Institute for Materials Energy Sciences (SIMES), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL, contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231), University of Hamburg through the BMBF priority program FSP 301, and the Center for Free Electron Laser Science (CFEL). The research leading to these results has received financial support from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement no. 319286 (Q-MAC) and no. 281403 (FEMTOSPIN). Work performed at SIMES was further supported by US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Science, Division of Materials Science and Engineering, under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515. Work at Brookhaven National Laboratory was financially supported by the Department of Energy, Division of Materials Science and Engineering, under contract No. DE-AC02-98CH10886.

Author information

Author notes

    • M. Först
    •  & A. D. Caviglia

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • P. Zubko

    Present address: London Centre for Nanotechnology and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London, London WC1H 0AH, UK.


  1. Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter, 22761 Hamburg, Germany

    • M. Först
    • , R. Mankowsky
    • , V. Khanna
    • , H. Bromberger
    •  & A. Cavalleri
  2. Center for Free Electron Laser Science, 22761 Hamburg, Germany

    • M. Först
    • , R. Mankowsky
    • , H. Bromberger
    •  & A. Cavalleri
  3. Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Delft University of Technology, 2628 CJ Delft, The Netherlands

    • A. D. Caviglia
  4. Department of Quantum Matter Physics, Université de Genève, 1211 Genève, Switzerland

    • R. Scherwitzl
    • , P. Zubko
    •  & J.-M. Triscone
  5. Department of Physics, Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PU, UK

    • V. Khanna
    • , S. R. Clark
    • , D. Jaksch
    •  & A. Cavalleri
  6. Diamond Light Source, Didcot OX11 0DE, UK

    • V. Khanna
    •  & S. S. Dhesi
  7. Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York 11973, USA

    • S. B. Wilkins
    •  & J. P. Hill
  8. Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Y.-D. Chuang
  9. The Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES), Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

    • W. S. Lee
  10. Linac Coherent Light Source, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

    • W. F. Schlotter
    • , J. J. Turner
    • , G. L. Dakovski
    • , M. P. Minitti
    •  & J. Robinson
  11. Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117543, Singapore

    • S. R. Clark
    •  & D. Jaksch


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A.D.C., M.F. and A.C. conceived this project. M.F., A.D.C., R.M., V.K., S.B.W., S.S.D. and J.P.H. performed the experiment at the LCLS, supported by W.F.S., J.J.T. and G.L.D. (beamline), M.P.M. and J.R. (laser), Y.-D.C. and W.S.L. (experimental endstation). The sample was grown by R.S., P.Z. and J.-M.T. M.F. and A.D.C. analysed the data with help from H.B. S.R.C. and D.J. provided the model Hamiltonian theory. M.F., A.D.C. and A.C. wrote the manuscript, with feedback from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. Först.

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