Mechanism For All-Optical Magnetization Switching
Resonant absorption of a photon by bound electrons in a solid can promote an electron to another orbital state or transfer it to a neighboring atomic site. Such a transition in a magnetically ordered material could affect the magnetic order. While this process is an obvious road map for optical control of magnetization, experimental demonstration of such a process remains challenging. Exciting a significant fraction of magnetic ions requires a very intense incoming light beam, as orbital resonances are often weak compared to above-band-gap excitations. In the latter case, a sizeable reduction of the magnetization occurs as the absorbed energy increases the spin temperature, masking the non-thermal optical effects.
Here, using ultrafast X-ray spectroscopy, this work is able to resolve changes in the magnetization state induced by resonant absorption of infrared photons in Co-doped yttrium iron garnet, with negligible thermal effects. This work finds that the optical excitation of the Co ions affects the two distinct magnetic Fe sublattices differently, resulting in a transient non-collinear magnetic state. The present results indicate that the all-optical magnetization switching (AOS) most likely occurs due to the creation of a transient, non-collinear magnetic state followed by coherent spin rotations of the Fe moments.