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X-Ray Diffraction Microscopy of Magnetic Structures Print
Friday, 23 September 2011 10:29

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Scientists working at ALS  Beamline have demonstrated a new x-ray technique for producing short-exposure nanoscale images of the magnetic structure of materials. The new method combines aspects of coherent x-ray diffraction, which can determine 3-D charge distributions, and resonant magnetic scattering, which is sensitive to magnetic structures.

Physicists have used coherent x-ray diffraction to measure the electron density of complicated molecules. The formula used to make these calculations contains terms that relate to the electron spin of magnetic atoms, but these terms are traditionally ignored since coherent x-ray diffraction has not been used to retrieve magnetic information. Using the full formula allows for the determination of not only the electron density, but also the magnetic spin distribution and its orientation.

After three years of trials and improvements, the research group, led by scientists from the Linac Coherent Light Source, succeeded in imaging magnetic domains in a cobalt alloy sample. This method can be used at any coherent light source, such as x-ray free-electron lasers, where ultra-short pulses would freeze-frame magnetic changes, offering the potential for imaging in unprecedented detail the structure and motion of boundaries between regions with different magnetic orientation.


Shown is the magnetic structure of a terbium-cobalt alloy imaged by x-ray diffraction microscopy. This technique offers the potential to image with a spatial resolution limited only by wavelength of x-rays used. Red and green indicate areas of opposite magnetic spin orientation – pointing up out of the page, and down into the page, respectively.


Read the full ALS Science Highlight about this work: Lensless Imaging of Magnetic Nanostructures

Work performed on ALS Beamline

Citation: J.J. Turner et al., “X-Ray Diffraction Microscopy of Magnetic Structures,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 033904 (2011).