Detecting magnetism on the atomic scale

Published on April 4, 2016

This video illustrates an experimental study of the electrical transport behaviour of atomic-size contacts and mono-atomic chains of the nonmagnetic metal platinum.

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The development of atomic-scale structures revealing novel transport phenomena is a major goal of nanotechnology. Examples include chains of atoms that form while stretching a transition metal contact and the formation of magnetic order in these chains, the existence of which is still under debate. Here we illustrate an experimental study of the electrical transport behaviour of atomic-size contacts and mono-atomic chains of the nonmagnetic metal platinum. We find a pronounced and diverse magneto-conductance behaviour that sensitively reacts to tiny changes of the atomic configuration. Technically this is done by stretching a free standing nanobridge of platinum with subatomic precision. These findings can be interpreted as a signature of local magnetic order in the chain, which may be of particular importance for the application of atomic-sized contacts in spintronic devices of the smallest possible size.

Scheer Group | University of Konstanz, Germany

Elke Scheer has studied Physics at the University of Karlsruhe, where she graduated in 1995 as Dr. rer. nat. After a research stay at Saclay (France) where she started her work on atomic-size contacts, she returned in 1998 to Karlsruhe. Since 2000 she is professor of experimental physics at the University of Konstanz. Her research interests focus around atomic and molecular scale transport, experiments include mesoscopic superconductivity, molecular electronics and quantum interference effects in the electronic transport.

In his PhD thesis project Florian Strigl has developed the sample fabrication technique for freestanding platinum nanobridges and has studied the magnetotransport through single-atom contacts made of platinum and other transition metals.

In his Master thesis project Martin Keller has worked on palladium single-atom contacts and will now continue with a PhD project in which he will study further metals and hybrid nanostructures consisting of paramagnets and superconductors.

Sources
Strigl, F., Espy, C., Bückle, M., Scheer, E., Pietsch, T.:
Emerging magnetic order in platinum atomic contacts and chains,
Nature Communications 2015, 6,6172
doi:10.1038/ncomms7172

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