Non-collinear magnets (NCM) exhibit a spatial variation of the magnetization direction, where helical and skyrmionic spin orders in materials have lately attracted considerable interest. This interest is spurred by both, exploring the physical origin of nanoscale NCM and applications in spintronics. Our study advances the understanding of nanoscale NCM by revealing the effect of nanoscale lateral confinement on the physical properties of NCM.
We combine spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy (sp-STM/S) and first-principles calculations to study prototypical helical NCM of some nm extension in proximity to both ferromagnetic Co and vacuum regions. We report a non-uniform distortion of the spin helix in an Fe bilayer on Cu(111), where the spin orientation deviates from that of an ideal helical structure. The proximity to either Co or vacuum leads to distortions of the spin orientation within nm range of the respective interface. The distortions give rise to a specific energy dependent phenomenon of non-collinearity between the local magnetization in the sample and the electronic magnetization probed above its surface. This phenomenon is a direct consequence of the spinor nature of the electronic states in NCM. The symmetry breaking due to lateral confinement makes the spinor nature of electronic states observable in sp-STM/S experiments.
 Phark, S. H.; Fischer, J. A.; Corbetta, M.; Sander, D.; Nakamura, K. and Kirschner, J. Reduced-dimensionality-induced helimagnetism in iron nanoislands Nat. Commun. 5 (2014) 5183.
Jeison A. Fischer, Dirk Sander, and Stuart Parkin, "Probing the spinor nature of electronic states in nanosize non-collinear magnets (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9931, Spintronics IX, 993140 (Presented at SPIE Nanoscience + Engineering: September 01, 2016; Published: 4 November 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2238612.5166910720001.
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