Although they exist in almost every magnetic material, you cannot see them: magnetic domains are microscopically small regions of uniform magnetization. Every magnetic material is divided into such domains. Scientists call them “Weiss domains” after physicist Pierre-Ernest Weiss, who predicted their existence theoretically more than a hundred years ago. In 1907, he recognized that the magnetic moments of atoms within a bounded domain are equally aligned.
Boundaries of magnetic domains can be computer imaged in three dimensions. Image: HZB/Manke, Grothausmann
All pursuit of this theory has so far been limited to two-dimensional images and material surfaces. Accordingly, researchers have only ever been able to see a domain in cross section. Together with colleagues from the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing and the Swiss Paul-Scherrer-Institute, Dr. Ingo Manke and his group at the Institute of Applied Material Research at HZB have developed a method by which they can image the full spatial structure of magnetic domains – even deep within materials. To do this, special iron-silicon crystals were produced at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden, for which the research group of Rudolf Schäfer had already developed model representations. Their actual existence has now been proven for the first time. With it, the researchers have solved a decade-old problem in imaging. Their findings will be published in Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038 /ncomms1125).
Most magnetic materials consist of a complex network of magnetic domains. The researchers’ newly developed method exploits the areas where the domains meet – the so-called domain walls. Within a domain, all magnetic moments are the same, but the magnetic alignment is different from one domain to another. So, at each domain wall, the direction of the magnetic field changes. The researchers exploit these changes for their radiographic method in which they use not light, but neutrons.
Magnetic fields deflect the neutrons slightly from their flight path, just as water diverts light. An object under water cannot be directly perceived because of this phenomenon; the object appears distorted and in a different location. Similarly, the neutrons pass through domain walls along their path through the magnetic material. At these walls, they are diverted into different directions.
This diversion, however, is only a very weak effect. It is typically invisible in a neutron radiogram, since it is overshadowed by non-diverted rays. The researchers therefore employ several diffraction gratings in order to separate the diverted rays. During a measurement, they rotate the sample and shoot rays through it from all directions. From the separated rays, they can calculate all domain shapes and generate an image of the domain network in its entirety.
Magnetic domains are important for understanding material properties and the natural laws of physics. They also play an important role in everyday life: most notably in storage media such as hard disks, for example, or battery chargers for laptops or electric vehicles. If the domain properties are carefully chosen to minimize electricity loss at the domain walls, the storage medium becomes more efficient.
Dr. Ina Helms | Helmholtz-Zentrum
Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems
08.12.2016 | Nagoya Institute of Technology
Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?
08.12.2016 | KU Leuven
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences