Publication in Physical Review B

Date of news: 12 March 2018

Revealing the correlation between real-space structure and chiral magnetic order at the atomic scale

We image simultaneously the geometric, the electronic, and the magnetic structures of a buckled iron bilayer film that exhibits chiral magnetic order. We achieve this by combining spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy and magnetic exchange force microscopy (SPEX) to independently characterize the geometric as well as the electronic and magnetic structures of nonflat surfaces. This new SPEX imaging technique reveals the geometric height corrugation of the reconstruction lines resulting from strong strain relaxation in the bilayer, enabling the decomposition of the real-space from the electronic structure at the atomic level and the correlation with the resultant spin-spiral ground state. By additionally utilizing adatom manipulation, we reveal the chiral magnetic ground state of portions of the unit cell that were not previously imaged with spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy alone. Using density functional theory, we investigate the structural and electronic properties of the reconstructed bilayer and identify the favorable stoichiometry regime in agreement with our experimental result.

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