The Investigation of New Magnetic Materials and Their Phenomena using Ultrafast Fresnel Transmission Electron Microscopy
State-of-the-art technology drives scientific progress, pushing the boundaries of our current understanding of fundamental processes and mechanisms. Our continual scientific advancement is hindered only by what we can observe and experimentally verify; thus, it is reasonable to assert that instrumentation development and improvement is the cornerstone for technological and intellectual growth. For example, the invention of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) allowed us to observe nanoscale phenomena for the first time in the 1930s and even now it is invaluable in the development of smaller, faster electronics. As we uncover more about the fundamentals of nanoscale phenomena, we have realized that images alone reveal only a snapshot of the story; to continue progressing we need a way to observe the entire scene unfold, e.g. how defects affect the flow of current across a transistor or how thermal energy propagates in nanoscale systems like graphene. Recently, by combining the spatial resolution of a TEM with the temporal resolution of ultrafast lasers, ultrafast electron microscopyor microscope(UEM) has allowed us to simultaneously observe transient nanoscale phenomena at ultrafast timescales. Ultrafast characterization techniques allow for the investigation of a new realm of previously unseen phenomenon inherent to the transient electronic, magnetic, and structural properties of materials. However, despite the progress made in ultrafast techniques, capturing the nanoscale spatial sub-ns temporal mechanisms and phenomenon at play in magnetic materials (especially during the operation of magnetic devices) has only recently become possible using UEM. With only a handful of instruments available, magnetic characterization using UEM is far from commonplace and any advances made are sparsely reported, and further, specific to the individual instrument.
In this dissertation, I outline the development of novel magnetic materials and the establishment of a UEM lab at the University of Minnesota and how I explored the application of it toward the investigation of magnetic materials. In my discussion of UEM, I have made a concerted effort to highlight the unique challenges faced when getting a UEM lab running so that new researchers may learn from my experience. Of note in my graduate studies, I assisted in the development of three different magnetic material systems, strained Fe nanoparticles for permanent magnetic applications, FePd for applications in spintronic devices, and a rare-earth transition-metal (RE-TM) alloy that exhibits new magneto-optic phenomena. In studying the morphological and magnetic effects of lasers on these RE-TM alloys using the in situ laser irradiation capabilities of UEM along with standard TEM techniques and computational modeling, I uncovered a possible limitation in their utility in memory applications. Furthermore, with the aid of particle tracing software, I was able to optimize our UEM system for magnetic imaging and demonstrate the world’s first investigation of ultrafast magnetic phenomena using UEM.