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A New Method for Accurately Measuring Changes in Magnetic Order

Tokyo Institute of Technology

Scientists from the Tokyo Institute of Technology have devised a way to accurately measure minute changes in the magnetic order of antiferromagnetic materials. These changes can be measured in real time, unlike most other approaches for observing such changes. Experts believe that a deeper understanding of these materials could one day lead to far faster electronic devices.

Researchers have sought to find a way to take electronic devices beyond their theoretical capabilities — and one promising option has been antiferromagnetic materials. These materials have an overall magnetization that is virtually zero, thanks to the unique alignment of electrons. This allows antiferromagnetic materials to be quantified in the ‘order parameter.’ Further research has led scientists to discover that the order parameter of an antiferromagnetic material can actually rapidly shift from one known value to another, called ‘switching.’ This unique capability could prove extremely useful when developing the next generation of electronic devices.

Unfortunately, scientists don’t yet fully understand the dynamics behind the process of order switching. This is in large part due to the difficulty that comes with accurately measuring the changes in the order parameter of antiferromagnetic materials in real time, particularly with high resolution. Adding to the complexity of the issue, changes in the antiferromagnetic order and electron dynamics occur simultaneously in real time when the material is excited, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to take measurements on the individual behaviors.

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To deal with this issue, scientists employed a laser to excite the selected material. A light-based measuring method was used, which has an output value that is directly related to the order parameter of the antiferromagnetic material. This method was combined with a second one called the Faraday effect. When a specific type of laser or light is irradiated on magnetically ordered materials, it can cause the antiferromagnetic material’s order parameters to change in a way that is predictable and well-documented. This allowed scientists to separate the results of each phenomena and gather  accurate and detailed measurements on the data.

Scientists intend to continue their research on this phenomena and hope to apply their findings to developing electronic devices that operate at far faster speeds than the current generation.

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