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PICO brings Magnetism to Light at the Atomic Scale

Jülich, 14 May 2018 - Scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich, RWTH Aachen University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, together with partners from Sweden and Japan, have developed a new method for imaging the magnetic structure of individual atomic layers in the interior of a material. They used the ultra-high-resolution PICO electron microscope in the Ernst Ruska-Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons (ER-C) at Forschungszentrum Jülich to perform the measurements. The results have been published in the journal Nature Materials.

The PICO electron microscope is one of the few instruments worldwide that uses a correction method for both spherical and chromatic aberrations. As a result, the image resolution is improved to 50 picometres, which allows the structures of atoms and shifts in their positions to be mapped precisely. The sophisticated correction mechanism of the PICO microscope provides an unusually large range of focus for inelastically scattered electrons that have interacted with a sample. By measuring the resulting energy dissipation, the detailed magnetic structures of individual closely-spaced atomic layers have now been distinguished.

Previously, scientists were able to identify magnetic structures with atomic precision by using scanning tunnelling microscopy. However, this method only allows the surfaces of samples to be investigated. Electron microscopes have also previously been used to measure magnetic properties. However, until now it has not been possible to image the magnetic structures of individual atomic layers in the interior of a material.

The accurate identification of magnetic structures is important for a wide range of applications, including research into new materials for data storage. Hard drives and newly developed memory sticks use magnetic order in solids to store information. However, the relevant structures can be so small that they cannot be detected using conventional methods.

Original publication:

Z. C. Wang, A. Tavabi, L. Jin, J. Rusz, D. Tyutyunnikov, H. B. Jiang, Y. Moritomo, J. Mayer, R. E. Dunin-Borkowski, R. Yu, J. Zhu, and X.Y. Zhong
Atomic scale imaging of magnetic circular dichroism by achromatic electron microscopy
Nature Materials (2018), DOI:10.1038/s41563-017-0010-4

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Rafal Dunin-Borkowski
Direktor am Ernst Ruska-Centrum für Mikroskopie und Spektroskopie mit Elektronen, Physics of Nanoscale Systems (ER-C-1) / Microstructure Research (PGI-5), Forschungszentrum Jülich
phone +49 2461 61-9297
e-mail r.dunin-borkowski@fz-juelich.de

Prof. Dr. Joachim Mayer
Direktor am Ernst Ruska-Centrum für Mikroskopie und Spektroskopie mit Elektronen, Materialwissenschaft und Werkstofftechnik (ER-C-2), Forschungszentrum Jülich
phone +49 2461 61-6070
e-mail j.mayer@fz-juelich.de

Dr. Amir Hossein Tavabi
Ernst Ruska-Centrum für Mikroskopie und Spektroskopie mit Elektronen, Physics of Nanoscale Systems (ER-C-1) / Microstructure Research (PGI-5), Forschungszentrum Jülich
phone +49 2461 61-9478
e-mail a.tavabi@fz-juelich.de

Dr. Lei Jin
Ernst Ruska-Centrum für Mikroskopie und Spektroskopie mit Elektronen, Physics of Nanoscale Systems (ER-C-1) / Microstructure Research (PGI-5), Forschungszentrum Jülich
phone +49 2461 61- 2413
e-mail l.jin@fz-juelich.de

Press contact:

Tobias Schlößer
Corporate Communications, Forschungszentrum Jülich
phone +49 2461 61-4771
e-mail: t.schloesser@fz-juelich.de