Exploitaiton Cluster Workshop

On 10th March the three projects; CRONOS, GO FAST, and FEMTOSPIN met in Brussels for a cluster workshop on exploitation. Kindly hosted by the EU Commission with contributions from industry, the workshop was also attended by the PO Anne De Baas and the PTA Richard Ball.

Laser Induced Magnetization Reversal for Detection in Optical Interconnects

Laser Induced Magnetization Reversal for Detection in Optical Interconnects


The use of optical interconnects has become a front runner to replace more traditional (usually Cu based) electrical interconnects in many modern devices. One of the major drawbacks of optical interconnects is overcoming the need for photodetectors and (power hungry) amplifiers at the receiver. Such detection is in most cases performed by CMOS circuits or direct band gap semiconductors. As part of a collaboration lead by engineers at Perdue University, IN, USA a new use of ultrafast heat induced switching, has been proposed as a means of using optical signals directly with standard CMOS circuits.

Schematic view of focusing of the laser beam on the detecting MTJ.

Schematic view of focusing of the laser beam on the detecting MTJ.


The data is transmitted using femtosecond laser pulses that induce magnetisation reversal in a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) in the receiver. The proposed scheme offers almost a 40% energy improvement over current technology and speeds of up to 5 GBits/sec for a single link. The preprint of the article can be found on arXiv.

FemtoSpin Mid Term Review

FemtoSpin Mid Term Review


The FemtoSpin project is making rapid progress in a field of enormous scientific and technical importance. The scientific basis of the project is research in ultrafast magnetisation processes induced by the interaction of light beams from femtosecond lasers. Experimentally, a light beam from a powerful-pulsed laser with a pulse width of around 50 femtoseconds is split into 2 beams. The first, high intensity (pump) beam is incident on the magnetic material, in the form of a thin film of thickness around 10nm, causing rapid heating. The second, low intensity (probe) beam is sent around a delay line, arriving at the sample with a measured delay and used to measure the magnetisation of the film using a technique known as the Magneto-Optical Kerr Effect. By means of such pump-probe experiments it has become possible to measure the magnetic response of a material on a timescale of tens of femtoseconds. This is a topic at the cutting edge of condensed matter and materials physics. The FemtoSpin participants are at the forefront of the field. FemtoSpin is predominantly aimed at developing models of the ultrafast magnetisation dynamics, but also has a core of leading experimental groups. The proven strong collaboration between the participants has led to a number of significant advances, including the discovery and verification of a phenomenon known as Thermally Induced Magnetisation Switching (TIMS) in which magnetisation switching can be achieved by a heat pulse alone in the absence of an applied field. This astonishing result has triggered a major worldwide effort to provide a full understanding of the phenomenon and its translation into practical applications. The technical implications for information storage technology are extremely exciting, giving the possibility of increased data rates along with reduction of device complexity and power requirements.


FemtoSpin is taking place within a rapidly evolving industrial context. In terms of magnetic information storage, the drive to higher recording densities is based on Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), which uses laser pulses to heat the storage medium so as to allow reversal of the magnetisation. This relies on a combination of laser heating coupled with standard technology to generate a localised magnetic field to induce the magnetisation switching. In the write-field transducer, a large current is passed through conducting coils, inducing a field in the magnetic storage medium. Because of materials limitations, this field is limited in magnitude: a factor which will ultimately limit areal storage densities. Technologically, the complexity of manufacture of the write transducer is already slowing down the pace of development. The use of optical switching would remove the requirement for the inductive write transducer, significantly reducing both manufacturing costs and power requirements. At the same time, the field of spin electronics (or Spintronics), in which device functionality is dependent on the spin of the electron rather than simply the charge, is developing rapidly. Spintronics is a strong candidate to replace conventional electronics as this technology reaches its physical limitations. Again, optical reversal is a potential candidate for switching the magnetisation in spintronic devices.


Against this background, FemtoSpin is making excellent progress. The physical understanding of ultrafast magnetisation dynamics relies on the development of advanced models of the fundamental properties of magnetic materials and their response to ultrafast laser excitation. This requires the development of new and powerful ‘multiscale’ magnetic models linking the different length scales associated with electronic structure calculations, atomistic models and mesoscopic approaches. In parallel with this, FemtoSpin partners are carrying out state-of-the-art experimental measurements and working closely with the theoretical groups to ensure rapid progress in the understanding of the fundamental physics in relation to the underlying materials properties. In particular we have identified the probable mechanism of TIMS, leading to the explanation of the fact that the phenomenon has been observed only in ferrimagnetic alloys of rare earth and transition metals. This led to the theoretical prediction of TIMS in synthetic ferrimagnets consisting of two ferromagnetic layers coupled antiferromagnetically: experimental testing of this prediction is under way.


Summary of objectives

  • Obtain fundamental knowledge of dynamic processes on the fs timescale; this requires the development of new approaches to treat non-equilibrium electron dynamics, utilizing Density Functional Theory and applying these to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying ultrafast spin dynamics.
  • Advanced atomistic models; this includes spin models with equations of motion beyond Langevin dynamics; new approaches to induced spins and transport; integration of thermodynamic and quantum approaches
  • Mesoscopic model development; this requires mesoscopic modelling using a generalised Landau-Lifshitz-Bloch (LLB) Equation; formulation for ferrimagnets and determination of LLB parameters from SDFT calculations and atomistic models.
  • Multiscale calculations and link to experiments; verification of models against experiment; feedback from experiments to model development; material studies; large-scale calculations and device simulations.
  • Detailed materials studies; candidate materials with especially promising properties on the femtosecond timescale will be investigated. This will encompass single-phase materials and alloys in addition to novel structured materials with engineered properties.


Work performed and major results achieved

Electronic structure calculations: The modelling activities here are aimed at the development of fundamental understanding of the properties underlying ultrafast magnetisation dynamics. In particular, theoretical models of the optomagnetic field associated with the laser pulse have been developed. The role of spin transport has also been investigated. Specifically a model of the contributions of superdiffusive spin transport as a mechanism for magnetisation changes following a laser pulse has been developed. The model shows that a thin Fe layer in contact with Ni can initially increase in magnetisation after a laser pulse. Central to the multiscale problem is the link between electronic structure calculations and atomistic spin models. This is carried out by means of a coarse graining approach, in which the fundamental properties are mapped onto a classical atomistic spin Hamiltonian assuming a fixed magnitude for the atomic spin value. We have developed techniques for the determination of magnetic parameters and applied them to studies of numerous materials, including bilayer films where the interface has an important effect on the magnetic parameters.

Atomistic calculations: We have developed a spin model, which gives an improved treatment of the properties of GdFeCo. The model treats separately the 5d and 4f electrons of the Gd. The laser excites the former, while the latter carry the atomic spin. We have also developed highly efficient GPU-based code, which enables the calculation of dynamic structure factors, leading the calculation of magnon dispersion relations and intensities across the Brillouin zone.


Macrospin models. These models represent a further coarse graining, being based on macrospins having dimensions of nm. The equation of motion of the macrospin must allow for changes in the magnitude of the spin at elevated temperatures. Model development within FemtoSpin is based on the Landau-Lifshitz-Bloch (LLB) equation of motion. The coarse graining associated with the multiscale approach is completed by using atomistic models, parameterised using first principle calculations, to calculate the important input parameters for the LLB model, specifically the temperature dependent anisotropy, exchange and longitudinal susceptibility. These models will form an important part of the planned comparison with experimental data.


Major results achieved


Importantly, we find that the phenomenon of heat-driven reversal seems has its origin in the presence of a 2-magnon bound state at the g point of the Brillouin zone, which transfers angular momentum between sublattices. This is an important factor in the investigation of heat-driven reversal and in the design of future materials exhibiting the phenomenon. We have also used an

atomistic model to investigate the dynamics of a Synthetic Ferrimagnet (SFiM) comprised of FePt and Fe layers separated by a Ru layer. The calculations predict heat-driven reversal to take place in such SFiM systems  (Patent submitted). Our goal of validating the theoretical and computational approaches is well under way, in particular in relation to the origin of the differential spin dynamics.


From the model development viewpoint we have made significant progress. In terms of the multiscale model we have succeeded in the development of techniques for mapping ab-initio information onto classical spin Hamiltonians. An initial application to the properties of FePt/Fe interfaces has been made since this will form an important part of the comparison with experiment. Ab-initio and atomistic models feed into the large scale macrospin models which form an important link to experiments and which are also expected to evolve into future design tools. These are generally based on the Landau-Lifshitz-Bloch (LLB) equation of motion. Our development of multi-sublattice and quantum LLB equations are important developments: the multi-sublattice version has given important insight in conjunction with atomistic calculations.


Expected final results


The completion of a strong multiscale theoretical and computational framework for research into ultrafast spin manipulation in nanostructured magnetic materials validated by parallel state of the art experimental programmes. The collaboration between advanced theory and modelling of realistic systems and novel, cutting edge experiments, will result in a deeper understanding of the fundamental physics of spin ordered materials and will lead to the development of advanced computational tools for the design of a new generation of materials for applications in ultrafast devices. This is an important and difficult challenge, as it spans multiple timescales (from femtoseconds to nanoseconds) and it involves the creation of interfaces between electronic structure calculations, atomistic models and mesoscopic simulations that jointly form the required multiscale approach. The understanding achieved, and the computational tools developed will provide a vital platform for the development of novel devices for magnetic information storage and processing. This progress toward realisation of all-optical reversal via the heat driven switching process was given a considerable boost by the prediction that the phenomenon can occur in synthetic ferrimagnet structures consisting of FePt coupled to Fe. This brings into play the high anisotropy of FePt, which is necessary for stability of writes information at high densities


The socio-economic benefits are expected to arise from the potential contribution to the increasing information storage and processing requirements of today’s society. Practical realisation of all-optical storage would result in numerous benefits. In particular the large effective fields involved would assist the progress to higher storage densities. At the same time, the complexity of write transducers in magnetic recording would be significantly reduced, leading to a reduction in processing costs and material wastage. It is also expected that all optical write transducers would give rise to a considerable reduction in the power required to store individual bits.

New Paper: Atomistic Spin Model Simulations of Magnetic Nanomaterials

Atomistic Spin Model Simulations of Magnetic Nanomaterials


Atomistic spin models model magnetic materials at the atomic scale, treating each magnetic atom as possessing a local magnetic moment. They are particularly useful in simulating high temperature properties of materials, the effects of defects, ultrafast spin dynamics, exchange bias and other phenomena. In our new article "Atomistic spin model simulations of magnetic nanomaterials" published in Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, we review the physical foundations of atomistic spin models, their implementation in algorithmic form, and a series of computational tests to validate their correctness. The algorithms are implemented in the open-source VAMPIRE software package (vampire.york.ac.uk), enabling wider use and adoption of atomistic models. Due to the high resolution of the atomistic model, calculation of the demagnetising fields with a macrocell approximation is treated in detail and excellent agreement is found for some analytical results. In addition, the complexity of the atomistic model means that simulations are computationally expensive, and so details of the parallelisation of the VAMPIRE code are presented, showing excellent scaling for a wide range of problems.


New Paper: Quantitative Characterization of Nanoscale Polycrystalline Magnets with Electron Magnetic Circular Dichroism

Quantitative Characterization of Nanoscale Polycrystalline Magnets with Electron Magnetic Circular Dichroism

Complex materials with one or more magnetic species are of particular interest within the FemtoSpin project. As we stimulate these materials on faster timescales, it has been shown that the behavior of the individual species can be very different. To measure the different magnetic elements is a challenging field of experimental physics often requiring large-scale synchrotron facilities. Another challenge for the measurement of magnetic properties is their observation at high spatial resolution. In a recent publication in Nature Communications, a team involving Uppsala University have demonstrated a new technique to measure the spin and orbital angular momentum at resolutions of only a few nanometers.


Schematics of the proposed scanning-mode measurement of EMCD. (a) Schematic drawing of the experimental setup and the data obtained (ADF: annular dark field, PL: projector lens). The detector aperture is placed at the PL cross-over position. In the present STEM mode, the PL cross-over position is on the diffraction plane. (b) ATEM image of the investigated polycrystalline iron film. Scale bar, 50nm. (c) Calculated EMCD signal intensity distribution of a polycrystalline iron film in the diffraction plane. The highlighted area indicates the measured area covered by the detector entrance aperture. The detector entrance aperture (solid circle) is located at the position of 0.4 g(110) away from the origin, and its diameter is 0.5 g(110). The white broken circle represents the possible aperture centre positions in the diffraction plane and blue broken circle corresponds to g(110) ring position for comparison. Scale bar, 2nm-1. The minimum (black) and maximum (white) EMCD values range from -3 to +3%.

Schematics of the proposed scanning-mode measurement of EMCD. (a) Schematic drawing of the experimental setup and the data obtained (ADF: annular dark field, PL: projector lens). The detector aperture is placed at the PL cross-over position. In the present STEM mode, the PL cross-over position is on the diffraction plane. (b) ATEM image of the investigated polycrystalline iron film. Scale bar, 50nm. (c) Calculated EMCD signal intensity distribution of a polycrystalline iron film in the diffraction plane. The highlighted area indicates the measured area covered by the detector entrance aperture. The detector entrance aperture (solid circle) is located at the position of 0.4 g(110) away from the origin, and its diameter is 0.5 g(110). The white broken circle represents the possible aperture centre positions in the diffraction plane and blue broken circle corresponds to g(110) ring position for comparison. Scale bar, 2nm-1. The minimum (black) and maximum (white) EMCD values range from -3 to +3%.


The method is based on the electron magnetic circular dichroism (EMCD), in which electrons are transmitted though a magnetic sample in a transmission electron microscope (TEM). Electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) measured at core levels can then be employed to extract element-selective magnetic information. This method was outlined in 2003 by Hébert and Schattschneider (Ultramicropscopy 96, 463-468 (2003)) but until now quantitative information has not been possible to extract because of the inherently low signal strength. The new approach was stimulated from simulated distribution of dichroic signals (one such example was performed as part of a collaboration with Uppsala University) that suggested the EMCD is present almost everywhere in the diffraction plane. This means that by, rather than optimizing the signal-to-noise ration in a fixed geometry, the group was able to collect a large number of independent spectra and apply a new statistical technique to overcome the low signal strength restrictions of the technique. This significant step forward provides the ability to determine local magnetic moments on the nanometer scale, even for polycrystalline materials.

Postdoctoral position in theoretical & computational condensed matter physics

Postdoctoral position in theoretical and computational condensed matter physics

at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Research area: theoretical and computational materials physics, with focus on modeling of ultrafast magnetic processes and/or theory of unconventional superconductivity.

The research areas to which the postdoctoral researcher can contribute through his/her research are 1) theoretical investigations and computational modeling of laser-induced non-equilibrium magnetization dynamics in magnetic materials on ultrashort time scales. The research work includes development of theoretical models and computer programs for ultrafast optical control of magnetization in strong laser fields. Alternatively, the postdoctoral researcher can contribute to 2) the development of materials specific theory of unconventional superconductivity and unconventional ordering phenomena. Density-functional theory (DFT) programs will be used for accurate description of magnetic and superconducting materials.
Prospective applicants are expected to be strongly motivated and have a PhD degree in theoretical or computational physics or materials science. Excellent capabilities to perform research should be demonstrated through publications in peer-reviewed journals. Experience with large-scale ab initio calculations is desirable, as is also the ability to perform computer code development. Good communicational skills both orally and in written English, and also the ability to work independently, are required.


The application should include a description of research interests and relevant experiences, CV, certificates of exams, degrees and grades, a copy of the PhD or outline of the PhD thesis, and list of publications and other relevant materials. Applicants are asked to provide names of two reference persons or to include recommendation letters.
The postdoctoral position is for two years. The candidate is offered the possibility to work in an exciting modern research area in physics and will have opportunities to interact and collaborate with leading experimental and theoretical groups.

Applications should be sent by e-mail to Professor Peter Oppeneer, e-mail: peter.oppeneer@physics.uu.se, who can be contacted for more information regarding the position (phone +46-(0)18 471 3748).


New Paper: Microscopic Explanation of Thermally Induced Magnetization Switching

Microscopic explanation of thermally induced magnetisation switching

Since the discovery by Ostler et al. of a purely thermally induced magnetisation switching (TIMS) in GdFeCo, there has been much effort to identify the cause of this unexpected phenomenon. While several works have studied the macroscopic relaxation behaviour (Mentink et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 057202 (2012).  Atxitia et al., Phys. Rev. B 87, 224417 (2013)), there has been little headway made in finding the material origins of the switching. In our new work “Two-magnon bound state causes ultrafast thermally induced magnetisation switching” published in the open access journal Scientific Reports we have found, through simulation and described with a combination of theoretical approaches, that the switching is caused by angular momentum transfer from a two magnon bound state which exists in this class of ferrimagnetic materials. Specifically, within GdFeCo we have shown that the amorphous properties of the material affect the switching behaviour because the antiferromagnetic interactions which couple the rare-earth and transition metal species have a large effect only at the interfaces of Gd clusters within the FeCo background. Our work provides a new insight into the switching which is induced by femtosecond laser pulses and gives new directions for experimentalists to focus their research.

New Paper: Ab-Initio Theory of Electron-Phonon Mediated Ultrafast Spin Relaxation of Laser-Excited Hot Electrons in Transition-Metal Ferromagnets

A new article has been presented in Physical Review B by the group of Peter Oppeneer. This computational study investigates electron spin-flip scattering induced by the electron-phonon interaction in the transition-metal ferromagnets bcc Fe, fcc Co and fcc Ni. Elliot-Yafet spin-flip scattering is computed from first principles, by employing a generalized spin-flip Eliashberg function as well as ab-initio computed phonon dispersions. Aiming at investigating the amount of electron-phonon mediated demagnetization in femtosecond laser-excited ferromagnets, the formalism is extended to treat laser-created thermalized as well as nonequilibrium, nonthermal hot electron distributions. Non-thermal distributions are found to lead to a stronger demagnetization rate than hot, thermalized distributions, yet their demagnetizing effect is not enough to explain the experimentally observed demagnetization occurring in the sub-picosecond regime.

Full details can be found at the APS website via the link here.

New Paper: Non-Equilibrium Magnetic Interactions in Strongly Correlated Systems

A low-energy theory for magnetic interactions between electrons in the multi-band Hubbard model in non-equilibrium conditions has been formulated. By introducing a time-dependent electric field it is possible to simulate laser-induced spin dynamics. Expressions for dynamical exchange parameters in terms of non-equilibrium Green's functions and self-energies are obtained via time-dependent dynamical mean-field theory. The analysis shows a new type of magnetic interaction, a so-called "twist exchange", which formally resembles Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya coupling, but is not due to spin-orbit interactions, but is due to an effective three-spin interaction.

Full details can be found at the Elsevier website via the link here.

New Paper: Terahetz Spin Current Pulses Controlled by Magnetic Heterostructures

Last months edition of Nature Nanotechnology sees the latest advancement in the use of femtosecond lasers to drive spin currents. Kampfrath et al. demonstrate both numerically and experimentally that it is possible to drive spins from a ferromagnetic iron thin film into a non-magnetic cap layer that has either low (ruthenium) or high (gold) electron mobility. The resulting transient spin current is detected by means of an ultrafast, contact-less amperemeter based on the inverse spin Hall effect, which converts the spin flow into a terahertz electromagnetic pulse.

The full details can be found at the Nature Nanotechnology website via the link here.