Using Scanning Electron Microscopy with Polarization Analysis (SEMPA), we observed the electron beam induced switching of the magnetic state of epitaxial single-crystal Fe(110) films grown on atomically flat cleaved GaAs(110). For low film thickness the magnetization lies along the [-110] in-plane direction, while above a thickness of 19 monolayers, the ground state magnetization configuration switches to the  in-plane direction. If Fe films are grown to a thickness greater than the critical thickness of the reorientation, the magnetization is caught in a metastable state, oriented along [-110]. We discovered that we can locally switch the metastable state to the stable  direction by irradiating the metastable magnetic state with a suitable electron current density. The reversal proceeds by the nucleation and growth of lancet-shaped domains that move in discrete jumps between pinning sites. Our results show that there is a permanent reduction of the strength of defect sites without a permanent change in the overall anisotropy. We demonstrate how an electron beam can be used to locally control domain structure.
Citation: Journal of Applied Physics
Pub Type: Journals
Fe, GaAs(110), magnetic domain wall, SEMPA, spin-reorientation transition