The spin configuration and magnetic behavior in patterned nanostructures can be controlled by manipulating the interplay between the competing energy terms. This in turn requires fundamental knowledge of the magnetic interactions at the local nanometer scale. Here, we report on the spin structure and magnetization behavior of patterned discs containing exchange coupled ferromagnetic layers with additional exchange bias to an antiferromagnetic layer. The magnetization reversal was explored by direct local visualization of the domain behavior using in-situ Lorentz transmission electron microscopy, from which quantitative magnetic induction maps were reconstructed. The roles of the main competing energy terms were elucidated and the reversal mechanism was identified as a coupled phenomenon of incoherent rotation in the exchange-biased layer and localized vortex nucleation and discontinuous propagation in the free layer, including an anomalous jump in the trajectory. The observations were supported by micromagnetic simulations and modeled phase shift simulations. The work presented here provides fundamental insights into opportunities for macroscopic control of the energy landscape of magnetic heterostructures for functional applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)