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      Transient ferromagnetic-like state mediating ultrafast reversal of antiferromagnetically coupled spins.

      Nature

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          Abstract

          Ferromagnetic or antiferromagnetic spin ordering is governed by the exchange interaction, the strongest force in magnetism. Understanding spin dynamics in magnetic materials is an issue of crucial importance for progress in information processing and recording technology. Usually the dynamics are studied by observing the collective response of exchange-coupled spins, that is, spin resonances, after an external perturbation by a pulse of magnetic field, current or light. The periods of the corresponding resonances range from one nanosecond for ferromagnets down to one picosecond for antiferromagnets. However, virtually nothing is known about the behaviour of spins in a magnetic material after being excited on a timescale faster than that corresponding to the exchange interaction (10-100 fs), that is, in a non-adiabatic way. Here we use the element-specific technique X-ray magnetic circular dichroism to study spin reversal in GdFeCo that is optically excited on a timescale pertinent to the characteristic time of the exchange interaction between Gd and Fe spins. We unexpectedly find that the ultrafast spin reversal in this material, where spins are coupled antiferromagnetically, occurs by way of a transient ferromagnetic-like state. Following the optical excitation, the net magnetizations of the Gd and Fe sublattices rapidly collapse, switch their direction and rebuild their net magnetic moments at substantially different timescales; the net magnetic moment of the Gd sublattice is found to reverse within 1.5 picoseconds, which is substantially slower than the Fe reversal time of 300 femtoseconds. Consequently, a transient state characterized by a temporary parallel alignment of the net Gd and Fe moments emerges, despite their ground-state antiferromagnetic coupling. These surprising observations, supported by atomistic simulations, provide a concept for the possibility of manipulating magnetic order on the timescale of the exchange interaction.

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          Ultrafast spin dynamics in ferromagnetic nickel.

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            Ultrafast optical manipulation of magnetic order

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              Femtosecond modification of electron localization and transfer of angular momentum in nickel.

              The rapidly increasing information density required of modern magnetic data storage devices raises the question of the fundamental limits in bit size and writing speed. At present, the magnetization reversal of a bit can occur as quickly as 200 ps (ref. 1). A fundamental limit has been explored by using intense magnetic-field pulses of 2 ps duration leading to a non-deterministic magnetization reversal. For this process, dissipation of spin angular momentum to other degrees of freedom on an ultrafast timescale is crucial. An even faster regime down to 100 fs or below might be reached by non-thermal control of magnetization with femtosecond laser radiation. Here, we show that an efficient novel channel for angular momentum dissipation to the lattice can be opened by femtosecond laser excitation of a ferromagnet. For the first time, the quenching of spin angular momentum and its transfer to the lattice with a time constant of 120+/-70 fs is determined unambiguously with X-ray magnetic circular dichroism. We report the first femtosecond time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy data over an entire absorption edge, which are consistent with an unexpected increase in valence-electron localization during the first 120+/-50 fs, possibly providing the driving force behind femtosecond spin-lattice relaxation.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                21451521
                10.1038/nature09901

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