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Magnetic structure imaging to spur superconductivity studies

08 Aug 2014  | Paul Buckley

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An experimental challenge was to magnetise the tip of the microscope for the spin-polarised investigations. To study nanostructures on surfaces, researchers primarily achieved this by heating the tip of the microscope and vapour depositing magnetic material on it. To avoid the need for this technologically demanding procedure, the scientists used a trick: they picked up individual iron atoms on the surface of the iron telluride under investigation with the tip of the microscope, until it became magnetic. In this way, they could image the magnetic stripe order in iron telluride with atomic resolution in real space.

The researchers made an interesting observation on the temperature which is necessary for the anti-ferromagnetic structure to form. In the experiment, this was approximately minus 227°C, around 20 degrees lower than the temperature that is normally necessary. The reason for this is that the researchers observed only the surface of the iron telluride in their experiment. Compared to the iron telluride layers in the bulk of the material, the interactions with an atomic layer above it are missing here. Consequently, the magnetic moments cannot mutually stabilise their order as well the magnetic structure forms only at a lower temperature.

The Research Group lead by Peter Wahl also determined that the magnetic order becomes more complex when the proportion of iron atoms is higher: the longitudinal stripes partially dissolve, and are overlaid by transverse stripes. It seems that the surplus atoms and their magnetic moments mess up the magnetic. There is still a great potential for research here, said Wahl. I believe that a real boom is going to develop very soon, groups will be carrying out similar experiments on other materials at the boundary between superconductivity and magnetism.

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