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Scientific Opportunities: Condensed Matter Physics

Overview  |   Strongly Correlated Electron Systems  |   Magnetism

Magnetism

Magnetic materials are characterized by a spontaneous spatial ordering of the magnetic moments that is superimposed on the crystal lattice. Why these atomic magnetic moments survive and how they arrange in the solid is the subject of magnetism.

Magnetism continues to play an important role in fundamental physics and the development of new technology. Research in magnetic materials can be divided into three principal areas: the study of the microscopic electronic interactions that produce local magnetic moments, the study of the long-range interactions of these moments, and the study of the interaction between magnetic domains. These domains tend to form macroscopic-ordered structures in order to minimize the total energy of the system.

Left panel: scanning tunneling microscope images: long atomic chains of a magnetic material (cobalt or Co) are obtained by the "step-decoration" of platinum (Pt) surface. Right panel: corresponding to higher and higher confinement, the Co orbital magnetic moment increases substantially.

The past 20 years have shown steady progress in these three areas. Synchrotron radiation techniques have become indispensable tools for the investigation of the properties of magnetic materials. For example, magnetic moments, magnetic anisotropies and susceptibilities, and critical behavior at phase transitions are routinely determined at synchrotron beamlines.

Using spectroscopic methods that are sensitive to the orientation of magnetic moments and techniques that produce nanometer-scale resolution, researchers will be able to simultaneously observe magnetic-domain structures with a sensitivity that allows them to resolve single elements (see figure). Additionally, applying the time structure of synchrotron radiation to magnetism will allow them to investigate the dynamics of magnetic phenomena. The high brightness, short pulse length, and broad spectral coverage of NSLS-II will dramatically advance our understanding of magnetism.

Last Modified: May 2, 2014
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