7 June 2016 Controlling magnetism by ultrashort laser pulses: from fundamentals to nanoscale engineering
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Abstract
From the discovery of sub-picosecond demagnetization over a decade ago [1] to the recent demonstration of magnetization reversal by a single 40 femtosecond laser pulse [2], the manipulation of spins by ultra-short laser pulses has become a fundamentally challenging topic with a potentially high impact for future spintronics, data storage and manipulation and quantum computation [3]. It was realized that the femtosecond laser induced all-optical switching (AOS) as observed in ferrimagnets exploits the laser induced strongly non-equilibrium dynamics and the antiferromagnetic exchange interaction between their sublattices [4-6]. This opens the way to engineer new magnetic materials for AOS [7,8], though for real applications nanoscale control of inhomogeneities appears to be relevant [9]. Besides the intruiging technological implications of these observations, they broadened remarkably the frontiers of our fundamental knowledge of magnetic phenomena. The laser driven out-of-equilibrium states cannot be described in term of the well-established thermodynamical approach, which is based on the concepts of equilibrium and adiabatic transformations. Theoretical efforts, although in their infancy, have already demonstrated [5,6] that light-induced spin dynamics on the (sub)-picosecond time scale results in phenomena utterly forbidden in a thermodynamical framework. Another challenge is how to bring the optical manipulation of magnetic media to the required nanoscale. This is clearly a key element for the perspectives in terms of magnetic recording. In addition, it would allow to explore a novel regime of spin dynamics, since the investigation of magnets on the femtosecond time-scale and the nanometer length-scale simultaneously is unexplored. One experimental approach which may be successful makes use of wave-shaping techniques [10]. Recent results with engineered hybrid magnetic materials and nanofocusing via a plasmonic antenna showed the practical potential of AOS: the magnetization of domains as small as 50 nm was repeatedly reversed by a single laser pulse [11]. The process was fully deterministic, implying that each laser pulse totally reversed the magnetization of the domain in a reproducible way. Employing antennas provided another significant benefit, by decreasing the threshold laser energy required for the AOS to occur.
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D. Bossini, D. Bossini, Th. Rasing, Th. Rasing, } "Controlling magnetism by ultrashort laser pulses: from fundamentals to nanoscale engineering", Proc. SPIE 9835, Ultrafast Bandgap Photonics, 98351P (7 June 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2225199; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2225199
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