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Enhanced spin polarized scanning tunneling micros

Matthew Bode from Argonne National Laboratory's Center for Nanoscale Materials, is shown with his enhanced spin polarized scanning tunneling microscope (SP-STM). His enhanced technique allows scientists to observe the magnetism of single atoms. Use of this method could lead to better magnetic storage devices for computers and other electronics. A team of scientists from the U.S. and Germany have demonstrated that that chirality %u2013 a spiral-like "handedness" %u2013 in nanoscale magnets may play a crucial role in data transmission and manipulation in spintronic devices, where the spin rather than the charge of an electron is used to store data. While the spins in ferromagnetic materials are simply oriented along one common direction, some nanomagnets were found to exhibit chirality. The term chirality refers to objects that differ from their mirror image like the human hand.The researchers used spin-sensitive scanning tunneling miscroscopy (STM) and first-principles electronic structure calculations to identify the magnetic order. By making the STM technique sensitive to the spin, it allowed for the observation of the magnetism of single atoms. This extension of STM is known as spin polarized STM or SP-STM, and was developed by Matthew Bode (pictured here). Using this enhanced technique, Bode was able to demonstrate that under a magnetic field the pattern shifted in a given direction, which identified the unique chirality. The premise for this work was inspired by the pioneering effort of Soviet physicist, Igor Dzyaloshinski. He showed that magnetic order may get twisted into helices with long-period in crystals lacking inversion symmetry, if the spin-orbit interactions are strong enough.

Science Source / Argonne National Laboratory

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