Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Ultra-fast magnetic reversal observed: 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. "This is as strange as finding the north pole of a magnet reversing slower than the south pole," says Ilie Radu.