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Ultrafast Spin Dynamics of Next-Generation Nanomagnetic Technologies


Over the past 50 years, our society has experienced a technological revolution that has fundamentally changed the way our world operates. At the heart of this revolution are the computational building blocks that work together to perform mathematical operations and save the results. For many years, the size of the computing elements (e.g. transistors) has been consistently shrunk so that more devices could fit on a chip in order to increase computational power. To provide adequate data storage for the ever-increasing number of computations, the hard-disk drive (HDD) was developed in the 1980s and would forever revolutionize the landscape of memory storage. Today, HDDs still account for a vast majority of the data stored worldwide. These devices store information using the magnetization of nanoscopic domains in a granular magnetic film, however, in recent years it has become increasingly challenging to reduce the size of the domains further without fundamentally changing the HDD. Indeed, the latest iteration of this technology has incorporated lasers into the devices to leverage multiple degrees of freedom in order to achieve higher bit densities. This example highlights a common trend for all next-generation computational technologies – the strong coupling between distinct physical systems must be utilized to sustain the improvements our society has become accustomed to. In order to realize this lofty goal, the physics of nanoscale systems must be well understood to predict their behavior. As our collective understanding of this field continues to flourish, novel effects are found that open doors to previously unimaginable technologies that may usher in a revolution of their own. Indeed, there are both technological and fundamental interests to study nanostructured devices.

In this thesis, the time-resolved magneto-optic Kerr effect (TR-MOKE) will be utilized to probe the ultrafast spin dynamics of magnetic films, multilayer heterostructures, and nanostructures. Our experimental observations of these systems are evaluated by combining various field of science and technology, including (but not limited to) condensed matter theory, signal processing, and optics. In doing so, we seek to fully explain the data and to enrich the understanding of these underexplored systems to inform the rational design of next-generation technologies. Specifically, a great deal of attention will be paid to emergent nanotechnologies that leverage the coupling between the magnetic system and either the electronic or mechanical properties of the device to tailor the performance. In this work, a novel method to restore the intrinsic magnetization dynamics and simultaneously improve the magneto-optical response of dense nanomagnet arrays will be presented. Then, our work on the spin dynamics of isolated nanomagnets resonantly excited by microwave-frequency acoustic waves will be reviewed, wherein we show for the first time that the coupling efficiency is ultimately limited by the damping of the magnetic system. In addition, the role of the nanomagnet geometry and the acoustic wavelength will be fully explored to determine critical parameters that govern the dynamic magneto-elastic resonance. Lastly, the development of an optical system to study the interplay between ultrafast all-optical switching and surface acoustic waves will be reviewed.

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