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Macrospin Dynamics in Antiferromagnets Triggered by Sub-20 femtosecond Injection of Nanomagnons

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      Abstract

      The understanding of how the sub-nanoscale exchange interaction evolves in macroscale correlations and ordered phases of matter, such as magnetism and superconductivity, requires to bridge the quantum and classical worlds. This monumental challenge has so far only been achieved for systems close to their thermodynamical equilibrium. Here we follow in real time the ultrafast dynamics of the macroscale magnetic order parameter triggered by the impulsive optical generation of spin excitations with the shortest possible nanometer-wavelength and femtosecond-period. Our experiments also disclose a possibility for the coherent control of these femtosecond nanomagnons, which are defined by the exchange energy. These findings open up novel opportunities for fundamental research on the role of short-wavelength spin excitations in magnetism and high-temperature superconductivity, since they provide a macroscopic probe of the femtosecond dynamics of sub-nanometer spin-spin correlations and, ultimately, of the exchange energy. With this approach it becomes possible to trace the dynamics of such short-range magnetic correlations for instance during phase transitions. Moreover, our work suggests that nanospintronics and nanomagnonics can employ phase-controllable spin waves with frequencies in the 20 THz domain.

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      Most cited references 8

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      Light-induced superconductivity in a stripe-ordered cuprate.

      One of the most intriguing features of some high-temperature cuprate superconductors is the interplay between one-dimensional "striped" spin order and charge order, and superconductivity. We used mid-infrared femtosecond pulses to transform one such stripe-ordered compound, nonsuperconducting La(1.675)Eu(0.2)Sr(0.125)CuO(4), into a transient three-dimensional superconductor. The emergence of coherent interlayer transport was evidenced by the prompt appearance of a Josephson plasma resonance in the c-axis optical properties. An upper limit for the time scale needed to form the superconducting phase is estimated to be 1 to 2 picoseconds, which is significantly faster than expected. This places stringent new constraints on our understanding of stripe order and its relation to superconductivity.
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        Ultrafast non-thermal control of magnetization by instantaneous photomagnetic pulses.

        The demand for ever-increasing density of information storage and speed of manipulation has triggered an intense search for ways to control the magnetization of a medium by means other than magnetic fields. Recent experiments on laser-induced demagnetization and spin reorientation use ultrafast lasers as a means to manipulate magnetization, accessing timescales of a picosecond or less. However, in all these cases the observed magnetic excitation is the result of optical absorption followed by a rapid temperature increase. This thermal origin of spin excitation considerably limits potential applications because the repetition frequency is limited by the cooling time. Here we demonstrate that circularly polarized femtosecond laser pulses can be used to non-thermally excite and coherently control the spin dynamics in magnets by way of the inverse Faraday effect. Such a photomagnetic interaction is instantaneous and is limited in time by the pulse width (approximately 200 fs in our experiment). Our finding thus reveals an alternative mechanism of ultrafast coherent spin control, and offers prospects for applications of ultrafast lasers in magnetic devices.
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          Transient ferromagnetic-like state mediating ultrafast reversal of antiferromagnetically coupled spins.

          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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            Author and article information

            Journal
            1507.03377
            10.1038/ncomms10645

            Condensed matter, Nanophysics

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