Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ultra-fast magnetic reversal observed

Ultra-fast magnetic reversal observed: For their experiment, the researchers needed an ultra-short laser pulse to heat the material and thus induce magnetic reversal. They also needed an equally short X-ray pulse to observe how the magnetization changed. This unique combination of a femtosecond laser and circular polarized, femtosecond X-ray light is available in one place in the world: at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II in Berlin, Germany.
In their experiment, the scientists studied an alloy of gadolinium, iron and cobalt (GdFeCo), in which the magnetic moments naturally align antiparallel. They fired a laser pulse lasting 60 femtoseconds at the GdFeCo and observed the reversal using the circular-polarized X-ray light, which also allowed them to distinguish the individual elements. What they observed came as a complete surprise: The Fe atoms already reversed their magnetization after 300 femtoseconds while the Gd atoms required five times as long to do so. That means the atoms were all briefly in parallel alignment, making the material strongly magnetized.

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