Scientists successfully observed an atomic magnetic field

Accelerating research and development on advanced materials.

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Characterizing magnetic structures down to atomic dimensions is essential to designing and controlling nanoscale magnetism in materials and devices. However, real-space visualization of magnetic fields at such dimensions has been extremely challenging.

Using, newly developed Magnetic-field-free atomic-resolution STEM (MARS), the joint development team of Professor Shibata (the University of Tokyo), JEOL Ltd., and Monash University has successfully and directly observed an atomic magnetic field, the origin of magnets (magnetic force), for the first time in the world. This is a significant achievement that could rewrite the history of microscope development.

Scientists observed the magnetic fields of iron (Fe) atoms in a hematite crystal (α-Fe2O3) using MARS. For this purpose, they loaded MARS with a newly developed high sensitivity detector. Later, they used a computer image processing technology.

Using the Differential Phase Contrast (DPC) method at atomic resolution, the team could observe magnetic fields. The results showed that iron atoms are small magnets (atomic magnets). The results also clarified the origin of magnetism (antiferromagnetism) exhibited by hematite at the atomic level.

The study demonstrates the observation of the atomic magnetic field. It also establishes a method to observe atomic magnetic fields. This method could become a new measuring method in the future that will lead to the research and development of various magnetic materials and devices.

Journal Reference:

  1. Yuji Kohno et al., Real-space visualization of intrinsic magnetic fields of an antiferromagnet, Nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04254-z