Lasers can be used to control the magnetization of a ferromagnet via optically driven thermal and electronic excitation. Transfer of this concept to antiferromagnets is appealing because of the increasing technological interest in antiferromagnetism. Controlling spin structures in antiferromagnets is challenging, however, because of their zero magnetization. In a proof-of-principle experiment we demonstrate that optical control of antiferromagnetic domains is nevertheless possible. We reverse the antiferromagnetic order parameter in multiferroic TbMnO3 repeatedly, using light pulses of two different colours. Switching depends on a unique relation between the wavelength of the light, its optical absorption and the electric polarization field induced by the antiferromagnetic order of TbMnO3. We then demonstrate sequential laser-controlled writing and erasure of antiferromagnetic domains. The universality of reversible optical antiferromagnetic switching is derived by Monte Carlo simulations. Opto-magnetism is thus complemented by an important degree of freedom, namely local control of antiferromagnetism by means of light.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics