Welcome to the Microscopy and Magnetism Group

The Microscopy and Magnetism Group has a long experience in synchrotron based experiments in condensed matter physics. In particular we study electronic and magnetic properties of thin films, multilayers, and bulk systems of metals and oxides, 3d- and 4f - electron systems employing X-ray microscopy and spectroscopy. We operate and further develop two beamlines at the SLS the SIM and the X-TREME. At these beamlines we perform our research and provide support for external users with various endstations with capabilities ranging from X-ray scattering and absorption experiments to pump probe techniques using femtosecond lasers to photoemission electron microscopy.

Recent Scientific Highlights and News:

5 September 2018


Moving Atoms by Photodoping

Understanding how and how fast we can drive atoms to create a structural phase transition is of fundamental interest as it directly relates to many processes in nature. Here we show that a photoexcitation can drive a purely structural phase transition before the energy is relaxed in the material that corresponds to a “warmer” equilibrated state.

31 January 2018

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Photoinduced transitions in magnetoresistive manganites: A comprehensive view

Using the FEMTO slicing source at SLS, we have studied the structural response during the photoinduced transition in a charge-ordered Pr1-xCaxMnO3 thin films. By investigating the dynamics of both superlattice reflections and regular Bragg peaks, we disentangle the different structural contributions and analyze their relevant time-scales. Comparing these results with studies of the charge order and magnetic dynamics, a comprehensive picture of the phase transition linked to a single critical fluence fc is proposed.

26 September 2017

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Atmosphere in X-ray light

Media Releases Energy and Environment Research Using Synchrotron Light Environment

PSI researchers have developed an experimental chamber in which they can recreate atmospheric processes and probe them with unprecedented precision, using X-ray light from the Swiss Light Source SLS. In the initial experiments, they have studied the production of bromine, which plays an essential role in the decomposition of ozone in the lower layers of the atmosphere. In the future, the new experiment chamber will also be available for use by researchers from other scientific fields.

9 August 2017

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Single-shot Monitoring of Ultrafast Processes via X-ray Streaking at a Free Electron Laser

The advent of x-ray free electron lasers has extended the unique capabilities of resonant x-ray spectroscopy techniques to ultrafast time scales. Here, in collaboration between researchers from PSI, Sorbonne Universités, HASYLAB/DESY, Synchrotron SOLEIL, CNRS, and Uppsala University, we report on a novel experimental method that allows retrieving with a single x-ray pulse the time evolution of an ultrafast process, not only at a few discrete time delays, but continuously over an extended time window.

24 July 2017


Moving atoms with “enhanced” THz pulses and tracking them with ultrashort x-ray pulses on an XFEL

Controlled motions of atoms using ultrashort electric field pulses allow to manipulated the properties of a material on ultrafast timescales. Here we show how metallic structures can be used to enhance a THz electric field pulse and track the induced atomic motions with ultrashort x-ray pulses emitted by a X-ray free electron laser.

15 June 2017


Nonlinear electron-phonon coupling in doped manganites

We employ time-resolved resonant x-ray diffraction to study the insulator-to-metal transition that is launched via resonant excitation of an infrared-active optical phonon mode in a half doped manganite. We find that the charge order reduces promptly with a highly nonlinear (quartic) dependence on excitation fluence.

12 February 2017


Carlos Vaz Honored by the American Physical Society as Outstanding Referee 2017

SIM beamline scientist Carlos Vaz was recognized as outstanding referee for providing high quality peer review for the journals of the American Physical Society (APS).

18 January 2017

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Retreat of the Microscopy & Magnetism Group

The Magnetism and Microscopy group has met for its annual retreat meeting in Lungern 11- 15.1.2017 (in the central mountain region of Switzerland) for extensive discussions on its science program. As for other years, after some general introductory lecture into the techniques used, current and future projects have been presented by the PhD students, postdocs, and scientists as well as from guests who collaborate with the group. Discussion went into the time where dinner has been prepared together, followed by some leisure activities on Saturday.

5 January 2017

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Nanotechnology enables new insights into chemical reactions

Media Releases Energy and Environment Research Using Synchrotron Light Micro- and Nanotechnology

Eighty percent of all products of the chemical industry are manufactured with catalytic processes. Catalysis is also indispensable in energy conversion and treatment of exhaust gases. Industry is always testing new substances and arrangements that could lead to new and better catalytic processes. Researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI in Villigen and ETH Zurich have now developed a method for improving the precision of such experiments, which may speed up the search for optimal solutions.

9 November 2016


The Smallest Magnet

Single holmium atoms adsorbed on few monolayers of magnesium oxide are extraordinarily stable magnets. They retain a significant fraction of their magnetization when the external magnetic field is switched off. This has been shown recently in a study combining x-ray magnetic circular dichroism performed at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) and at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) as well as scanning tunneling microscopy. The results open perspectives of storing and processing information at ultrahigh density.

19 July 2016


Magnesium Oxide Boosts the Hysteresis of Single-Molecule Magnets

Researchers from PSI and EPFL have demonstrated that the magnetization hysteresis and remanence of TbPc2 single-molecule magnets drastically depends on the substrate on which they are deposited. If a few atomic layers thick magnesium oxide film grown on a silver substrate is used, a record wide hysteresis and record large remanence can be obtained. Single-molecule magnets are attractive for molecular spintronics applications such as information processing or storage.

23 June 2016


Itinerant and Localized Magnetization Dynamics in Antiferromagnetic Holmium

Resonant magnetic scattering performed at the x-ray free electron laser facility LCLS (USA) has been used to investigate the magnetization dynamics of elemental Holmium. It is found that the demagnetization of conduction electrons and localized 4f magnetic moments have the same temporal evolution showing a strong coupling between the different magnetic moments.


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  • NCCR MUST, Phase II (National Center of Competence in Research from the Swiss National Science Foundation) Molecular Ultrafast Science and Technology
  • IFOX (FP7 Collaborative Project), Interfacing Oxides
  • Fantomas (FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network), Femtosecond Opto-Magnetism and Novel Approaches to Ultrafast Magnetism at the Nanoscale
  • Ultramagnetron (FP7 Collaborative Project), Ultrafast All-Optical Magnetization Reversal for Magnetic Recording and Laser-Controlled Spintronics
  • MaNEP - Phase III (NCCR Programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation), Materials with Novel Electronic Properties
  • NCCR Nanoscale Science/Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI)


  • Carlos Vaz is the new beamline scientist at SIM.
  • Urs Staub is the new leader of the MM Group.
  • Frithjof Nolting is the new head of the Laboratory Condensed Matter Physics at the SLS.

Magnetismus untersucht mit Neutronen/Photonen (Lecture at Uni Basel FS13)

Michel Kenzelmann (PSI-LDM) und Frithjof Nolting (PSI-LSC)

Beginn: Mi. 27.2.2013 (9:00 - 11 Uhr), 2 Kreditpunkte

Kontakt: michel.kenzelmann@psi.ch; frithjof.nolting@psi.ch

Neutronen und Photonen ermöglichen faszinierende Einsichten in den elektronischen und magnetischen Aufbau von Materialien. In dieser Vorlesung werden die Grundlagen von Experimenten mit Neutronen und Photonen an Grossforschungsanlagen erklärt. Die Vielfältigkeit von Grossforschungsexperimenten wird mit Beispielen von Experimenten an magnetischen Festkörpern und Dünnschicht-Systemen bis hin Nanostrukturen erläutert. Ziel dieser Vorlesung ist es die Möglichkeiten dieser Techniken kennenzulernen und dabei einen vertieften Einblick in magnetische Materialien zu erhalten.


Einführung, Typen von Neutronen- und Photononquellen, Grundlagen Magnetismus, Grundlagen Wechselwirkung von Photonen und Neutronen mit Materie, Materialstrukturen untersucht mit Diffraktion, Magnetismus untersucht mit Diffraktion, Reflektometrie/Oberflächen, X-ray Absorption Spektroskopie, Imaging, Inelastische Streuung, Zeitaufgelöste Messungen, Multiferroische Materialien

Download Flyer: Neutronen_Photonen_FS13.pdf

Empfohlene Literatur
  • Für Neutronenstreuung: Gordon L. Squires, Introduction to the theory of thermal neutron scattering, Cambridge University Press, 1978.
  • Für Photonen: Philip Willmott, An Introduction to Synchrotron Radiation – Techniques and Applications, Wiley 2011
  • Photonen und Magnetismus: J. Stöhr, H.C. Siegmann, Magnetism – From Fundamentals to Nanoscale Dynamics, Springer 2006
  • Für die Grundlagen des Magnetismus: Stephen Blundell, Magnetism in Condensed Matter, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Tutorial Day about Ultrafast Magnetization Dynamics

Speakers: Christoph Hauri (PSI/EPFL), Jan Lüning (Paris), and Peter Oppeneer (Uppsala)

The study of ultrafast magnetization dynamics is a fascinating and fast moving area of research. This tutorial day is directed at PhD students and Postdocs who started or want to start to work in this field. The aim is to provide some basic knowledge about modern ultrafast magnetization dynamics theory and advanced experiments using for example X-ray free electron lasers or terahertz radiation.

The tutorial day will take place on Tuesday, 19th June 2012 in WSLA/008 in the SLS hall at PSI. For details, see this Flyer.
Contact: frithjof.nolting@psi.ch

Special Session on Magnetism at Interfaces at the SPS Annual Meeting 2012

The ability to control the properties of interfaces has lead to important applications in nowadays electronic and magnetic devices. The continuing demand on miniaturization will further stimulate intense research efforts on interfaces in the field of condensed matter physics. This session focuses at magnetic phenomena at interfaces in systems with different length scales ranging from thin films to nanostructures, clusters or molecules on surfaces. The meeting aims to provide a platform for interdisciplinary discussions and will consist of invited and contributed presentations.

We are organizing this special session at the SPS annual meeting 2012 being held in June in Zürich. For details, see this link.
Contact: armin.kleibert@psi.ch