Research ArticleCONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS

Optical manipulation of magnetic vortices visualized in situ by Lorentz electron microscopy

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Science Advances  20 Jul 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 7, eaat3077
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat3077

Abstract

Understanding the fundamental dynamics of topological vortex and antivortex naturally formed in microscale/nanoscale ferromagnetic building blocks under external perturbations is crucial to magnetic vortex–based information processing and spintronic devices. All previous studies have focused on magnetic vortex–core switching via external magnetic fields, spin-polarized currents, or spin waves, which have largely prohibited the investigation of novel spin configurations that could emerge from the ground states in ferromagnetic disks and their underlying dynamics. We report in situ visualization of femtosecond laser quenching–induced magnetic vortex changes in various symmetric ferromagnetic Permalloy disks by using Lorentz phase imaging of four-dimensional electron microscopy that enables in situ laser excitation. Besides the switching of magnetic vortex chirality and polarity, we observed with distinct occurrence frequencies a plenitude of complex magnetic structures that have never been observed by magnetic field– or current-assisted switching. These complex magnetic structures consist of a number of newly created topological magnetic defects (vortex and antivortex) strictly conserving the topological winding number, demonstrating the direct impact of topological invariants on magnetization dynamics in ferromagnetic disks. Their spin configurations show mirror or rotation symmetry due to the geometrical confinement of the disks. Combined micromagnetic simulations with the experimental observations reveal the underlying magnetization dynamics and formation mechanism of the optical quenching–induced complex magnetic structures. Their distinct occurrence rates are pertinent to their formation-growth energetics and pinning effects at the disk edge. On the basis of these findings, we propose a paradigm of optical quenching–assisted fast switching of vortex cores for the control of magnetic vortex–based information recording and spintronic devices.

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