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Writing and reading of an arbitrary optical polarization state in an antiferromagnet


The interaction between light and magnetism is considered a promising route to the development of energy-efficient data storage technologies. To date, however, ultrafast optical magnetization control has been limited to a binary process, whereby light in either of two polarization states generates (writes) or adopts (reads) a magnetic bit carrying either a positive or negative magnetization. Here, we report how the fundamental limitation of just two states can be overcome, allowing an arbitrary optical polarization state to be written magnetically. The effect is demonstrated using a three-sublattice antiferromagnet—hexagonal YMnO3. Its three magnetic oscillation eigenmodes are selectively excited by the three polarization eigenstates of the light. The magnetic oscillation state is then transferred back into the polarization state of an optical probe pulse, thus completing an arbitrary optomagnonic write–read cycle.

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Figure 1: Writing and reading of an optical polarization state in three-sublattice YMnO3.
Figure 2: Schematics of the experimental set-up.
Figure 3: Experiments for scrutinizing the one-to-one nature of information transfer.
Figure 4: Experimental result for double-pulse excitations.


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The authors thank A.M. Kalashnikova, T.J. Sato and D. Meier for discussions. This work was supported by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO) (T.Sa.).

Author information




T.Sa. planned the study. R.I. and T.Sa. carried out the experiment. R.I., T.H. and T.Sa. analysed the data. M.F. contributed to their interpretation. T.Sh. supervised the study. All authors discussed the results and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Takuya Satoh.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Satoh, T., Iida, R., Higuchi, T. et al. Writing and reading of an arbitrary optical polarization state in an antiferromagnet. Nature Photon 9, 25–29 (2015).

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