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All-optical magnetisation for devices of the future

Laser-induced magnetisation promises great things for magnetic storage, information processing and spintronics technologies. Scientists are exploring ultrafast, reversible optically induced magnetisation with an eye on information processing technologies, as yet unprecedented.
All-optical magnetisation for devices of the future
Optically induced magnetic changes initially observed in certain materials were a result of optical absorption followed by rapid temperature change, making the effect non-reversible and limiting applications. With non-thermal control of magnetisation, the emerging field of nano-opto-magnetism is poised to make a significant technological contribution to new devices. A prerequisite is the expert training of a new generation of scientists to lead the charge.

The EU-funded project 'Femtosecond opto-magnetism and novel approaches to ultrafast magnetismat the nanoscale' (FANTOMAS) is addressing both these issues, training a new generation of multidisciplinary scientists through the investigation of non-thermal effects of light on nanomagnets. The goal is a detailed understanding of the physical mechanisms involved in highly efficient, ultrafast optical control of nanomagnetism.

During the current recording period, scientists studied all-optical magnetisation reversal dynamics using a novel experimental technique and multi-scale theoretical modelling. With femtosecond single-shot imaging that employs a very rapid single-laser pulse, scientists obtained sequential images providing time-resolved changes in magnetic structures. The model revealed a unique pathway to magnetisation reversal that will be important in device development.

Researchers also developed a fabrication method to introduce graded thermally activated magnetisation, and they produced magnetic semiconductors with tailored magnetic properties. They demonstrated a photo-induced change in coercivity or resistance to demagnetisation (a photocoercivity effect (PCE)) of a semiconductor with vey low illumination. Investigators also studied ultrafast magnetisation dynamics in dielectric (poorly conducting or insulating) thin films with promising preliminary results.

Characterisation of ultrafast and reversible optically induced magnetisation is expected to make a major contribution to the development of new devices in areas including unprecedented ultrafast magnetic recording and information processing applications. The high-level training of young researchers within a consortium of academic and industrial partners will ensure knowledge developed is rapidly applied to novel devices.

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