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Large magneto-optical Kerr effect and imaging of magnetic octupole domains in an antiferromagnetic metal


The magneto-optical Kerr effect (MOKE) has been intensively studied in a variety of ferro- and ferrimagnetic materials as a powerful probe for electronic and magnetic properties1,2,3 and for magneto-optical technologies4. The MOKE can be additionally useful for the investigation of the antiferromagnetic (AF) state, although thus far limited to insulators5,6,7,8,9. Here, we report the first observation of the MOKE in an AF metal. In particular, we find that the non-collinear AF metal Mn3Sn (ref. 10) exhibits a large zero-field Kerr rotation angle of 20 mdeg at room temperature, comparable to ferromagnetic metals. Our first-principles calculations clarify that ferroic ordering of magnetic octupoles11 produces a large MOKE even in its fully compensated AF state. This large MOKE further allows imaging of the magnetic octupole domains and their reversal. The observation of a large MOKE in an AF metal will open new avenues for the study of domain dynamics as well as spintronics using antiferromagnets12,13,14,15,16.

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Fig. 1: Crystal and magnetic structures, anomalous Hall effect and weak ferromagnetism at 300 K of the non-collinear antiferromagnet Mn3Sn.
Fig. 2: Magneto-optical Kerr rotation in the non-collinear antiferromagnet Mn3Sn at 300 K.
Fig. 3: Magnetization dependence of the polar Kerr effect at room temperature for ferro- and ferrimagnets, and antiferromagnets including Mn3Sn.
Fig. 4: MOKE images in the non-collinear antiferromagnet Mn3Sn.


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The authors thank Y. Otani, M. Kimata, L. Balents, H. Chen, H. Ishizuka, O. Tchernyshyov and C. Broholm for discussions. This work is partially supported by CREST(JPMJCR15Q5), Japan Science and Technology Agency, by Grants-in-Aids for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas (15H05882 and 15H05883) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan, and by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (16H02209) and the Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers (no. R2604) from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Kerr spectroscopy was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division under contract no. DEAC02-05CH11231 within the Spin Physics programme (KC2206). L.W. is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s EPiQS Initiative through grant GBMF4537 to J.O. at UC Berkeley. Y.L. was supported in part by SHINES (grant SC0012670), an Energy Frontier Research Center of the US Department of Energy, and grant DE-SC0009390. This research is funded in part by a QuantEmX grant from ICAM and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through grant GBMF5305. The work of T.H., H.M. and S.N. at IQM was partially supported by the US Department of Energy, office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Material Sciences and Engineering under grant DE-FG02-08ER46544. T.H., H.M. and S.N. greatly appreciate the hospitality of the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Johns Hopkins University, where part of this work was conducted. The use of the facilities of the Materials Design and Characterization Laboratory at the Institute for Solid State Physics, The University of Tokyo, is acknowledged.

Author information




S.N. conceived the project. S.N., R.D.S., J.O. and C.L.C. planned the experiments. M.I. synthesized the single-crystalline samples. T.H., S.N. and M.I. performed magnetization and Hall effect measurements. T.H. and H.M. prepared the samples for magneto-optical experiments. O.M.J.v.E. and D.B.G. performed the MOKE loop experiment. L.W., D.R. and S.P. performed the MOKE spectroscopy experiment. T.H., H.M., D.B.G. and Y.P.K. performed the MOKE imaging experiment. Y.P.K. and Y.L. carried out the image processing. R.A. planned the theoretical calculations, and T.K., M.-T.S. and R.A. performed the first-principles calculations. T.H., D.B.G., L.W., O.M.J.v.E., C.L.C., R.A., R.D.S., J.O. and S.N. discussed the results, and T.H., D.B.G., L.W., T.K., R.A., J.O. and S.N. wrote the manuscript and prepared figures. All authors commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Satoru Nakatsuji.

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Higo, T., Man, H., Gopman, D.B. et al. Large magneto-optical Kerr effect and imaging of magnetic octupole domains in an antiferromagnetic metal. Nature Photon 12, 73–78 (2018).

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