The manipulation of magnetization orientation in materials using intense laser pulses has been an area of great interest for scientists. Traditionally, such effects were achieved through thermal mechanisms, where the absorbed energy from the laser rapidly heated up the material, leading to magnetic perturbations. However, recent research by a team of scientists from the Max Born Institute (MBI) and international collaborators has introduced a non-thermal approach to generating significant magnetization changes in materials using circularly polarized extreme ultraviolet (XUV) radiation. This breakthrough paves the way for more efficient and precise manipulation of magnetism on ultrafast time scales.

The key to the non-thermal manipulation of magnetism lies in the inverse Faraday effect (IFE), a phenomenon that allows for the generation of magnetic moments in a material when optically excited by circularly polarized radiation. Unlike traditional thermal mechanisms, the IFE does not depend on the absorption of light but on the coherent interaction between the polarization of the light and the electronic spins in the material. This unique approach offers a more direct and efficient way to control magnetization without the heat load associated with traditional methods.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the non-thermal approach, the researchers used circularly polarized femtosecond pulses of XUV radiation generated at the free-electron laser FERMI. By directing these pulses at a metallic, ferrimagnetic iron-gadolinium (FeGd) alloy, the scientists were able to observe a strong IFE-induced magnetization response. The high photon energy of the XUV radiation allowed for resonant excitation of core-level electrons, leading to the generation of significant opto-magnetic effects in the material.

Through their experiments, the researchers found that the IFE-induced magnetization could reach up to 20-30% of the ground-state magnetization of the alloy. This large effect was measured by the difference in ultrafast demagnetization induced by circularly polarized XUV pulses of opposite helicities. Supported by theoretical simulations, the team was able to confirm that the observed effects were indeed due to the IFE and not a thermal mechanism.

The implications of this research are vast, especially in the fields of ultrafast magnetism, spintronics, and nonlinear X-ray matter interactions. The ability to manipulate magnetization without inducing thermal effects opens up new possibilities for controlling magnetic properties at the nanoscale. It could also lead to advancements in technologies that require fast and precise magnetization switching, such as data storage devices.

The non-thermal manipulation of magnetism using extreme ultraviolet radiation represents a significant advancement in the field of ultrafast magnetism. By harnessing the power of the IFE, researchers have demonstrated a more efficient and precise method for controlling magnetization in materials, without the limitations of traditional thermal mechanisms. This research opens up new opportunities for exploring the dynamics of magnetism at the sub-picosecond scale and could have far-reaching implications for future technological applications.


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