Research ArticleQuantum Mechanics

Nonlocally sensing the magnetic states of nanoscale antiferromagnets with an atomic spin sensor

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Science Advances  26 May 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 5, e1603137
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1603137

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The ability to sense the magnetic state of individual magnetic nano-objects is a key capability for powerful applications ranging from readout of ultradense magnetic memory to the measurement of spins in complex structures with nanometer precision. Magnetic nano-objects require extremely sensitive sensors and detection methods. We create an atomic spin sensor consisting of three Fe atoms and show that it can detect nanoscale antiferromagnets through minute, surface-mediated magnetic interaction. Coupling, even to an object with no net spin and having vanishing dipolar stray field, modifies the transition matrix element between two spin states of the Fe atom–based spin sensor that changes the sensor’s spin relaxation time. The sensor can detect nanoscale antiferromagnets at up to a 3-nm distance and achieves an energy resolution of 10 μeV, surpassing the thermal limit of conventional scanning probe spectroscopy. This scheme permits simultaneous sensing of multiple antiferromagnets with a single-spin sensor integrated onto the surface.

  • Scanning tunneling microscopy
  • Nano-antiferromagnet
  • Atomic spin sensor
  • Spin relaxation time

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