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.
Journal of Applied Physics
Fe, GaAs(110), magnetic domain wall, SEMPA, spin-reorientation transition