An international team of scientists was able to make the indestructible magnetic structures visible for the first time with the aid of a high-resolution X-ray microscope.
Skyrmions are three-dimensional structures that occur in magnetic materials. They are magnetic vortices a few nanometers in size in which atomic elementary magnets are arranged in closed vortex structures.
Skyrmions are topologically protected, meaning that their shape cannot be changed. First described in the 1950s by the mathematician Tony Skyrme, their three-dimensional structure is less than one hundred nanometers in size. It was thus not possible to make the structure visible – until now.
An international team of researchers has successfully tackled the challenge. The scientists are from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, the Songshan Lake Materials Laboratory in Guangdong, the University of Oxford in Great Britain, the University of Messina, and the Polytechnic in Bari, Italy.
Together, they were able to map the three-dimensional structure of Skyrmions for the first time. On February 8, 2019, the joint project entitled "Anatomy of Skyrmionic Textures in Magnetic Multilayers" was published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials.
"To date, no one has ever seen the three-dimensional structure of Skyrmions," says Professor Gisela Schütz, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart and head of the Modern Magnetic Systems Department.
"We are the first to get a high-resolution, three-dimensional image of this structure." Because a Skyrmion is smaller than 100 nanometers (~ 1000 times smaller than a human hair) the researchers use a method called ptychography for scanning transmission X-ray microscopy.
"We achieve the best resolution for X-rays and are even highly sensitive to magnetic details. This was the only way to investigate the interior of magnetic Skyrmions," explains Schütz.
The researchers used MAXYMUS, a high-resolution X-ray microscope located at BESSY II, an 80-meter-wide synchrotron radiation source at the Helmholtz-Center Berlin that produces extremely bright X-ray light.
This was followed at the RASOR station at BESSY's British counterpart, Diamond in Oxfordshire. The research team discovered that the three-dimensional structure of the Skyrmion is more complicated than expected.
"We found out that an interplay of four magnetic interactions lead to the formation of the 3D structure. But the simple dipole coupling is mostly dominant in contradiction to prior expectations," Dr. Joachim Gräfe explains, who leads the Nanomagnonics and Magnetization Dynamics Research Group at the MPI-IS. "The decoding of the real deometry is a prerequisite for the understanding and, therefore, the manipulation of the world-wide investigated Skyrmions”.
Understanding magnetic Skyrmions and their effects is particularly important for the development and future manufacture of spintronic storage devices. These magnetic spin-based electronics, which store information in Skyrmions, are considered less susceptible to interference and very stable because Skyrmion structures are topologically protected.
"To use Skyrmions as data storage devices, you have to know the structure and all the effects," says Gräfe. "With our publication, we have taken basic research in this field one step further."
Professor Gisela Schütz is a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, where she heads the "Modern Magnetic Systems" department. Her research interests include the application of synchrotron radiation in X-ray spectroscopy and microscopy, as well as the development of advanced spintronic/magnon systems and new supermagnets.
Schütz was born in Ottobeuren in 1955. She studied physics at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), where she received her doctorate in 1984 from the Chair of Nuclear Physics. It was also at the TUM that she started her research activities in the field of condensed matter with synchrotron radiation.
She worked in several synchrotron laboratories and developed new methods for the investigation of magnetic structures and phenomena with polarized X-rays. After completing her studies in experimental physics in 1992, she became professor at the University of Augsburg in 1993 and was appointed professor at the Institute of Experimental Physics at the University of Würzburg in 1997. In 2001, Schütz became Director at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, now the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.
Dr. Joachim Gräfe heads the "Nanomagnonics and Magnetisation Dynamics" research group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart. The group is assigned to the Modern Magnetic Systems department of Prof. Gisela Schütz. Gräfe’s research concentrates on magnetization dynamics on the nanoscale, in particular magnonics, through the use of state-of-the-art X-ray microscopy.
Gräfe was awarded the renowned Ernst Eckhard Koch Prize and the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society. He studied at the University of Leipzig and Cardiff University in the UK. In 2016, he received his Ph.D. at the MPI-IS, where he has been working as a group leader ever since.
Linda Behringer | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme
21.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung
Levitating objects with light
19.03.2019 | California Institute of Technology
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
21.03.2019 | Life Sciences
21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE