• Kern, L.-M.; Pfau, B.; Schneider, M.; Gerlinger, K.; Deinhart, V.; Wittrock, S.; Sidiropoulos, T.; Engel, D.; Will, I.; Günther, C. M.; Litzius, K.; Wintz, S.; Weigand, M.; Büttner, F.; Eisebitt, S.: Tailoring optical excitation to control magnetic skyrmion nucleation. Physical Review B 106 (2022), p. 054435/1-10

Open Access Version

In ferromagnetic multilayers, a single laser pulse with a fluence above an optical nucleation threshold can create magnetic skyrmions, which are randomly distributed over the area of the laser spot. However, in order to study the dynamics of skyrmions and for their application in future data technology, a controllable localization of the skyrmion nucleation sites is crucial. Here, it is demonstrated that patterned reflective masks behind a thin magnetic film can be designed to locally tailor the optical excitation amplitudes reached, leading to spatially controlled skyrmion nucleation on the nanometer scale. Using x-ray microscopy, the influence of nanopatterned backside aluminum masks on the optical excitation is studied in two sample geometries with varying layer sequence of substrate and magnetic Co/Pt multilayer. Surprisingly, the masks' effect on suppressing or enhancing skyrmion nucleation reverses when changing this sequence. Moreover, optical near-field enhancements additionally affect the spatial arrangement of the nucleated skyrmions. Simulations of the spatial modulation of the laser excitation and the following heat transfer across the interfaces in the two sample geometries are employed to explain these observations. The results demonstrate a reliable approach to add nanometer-scale spatial control to optically induced magnetization processes on ultrafast timescales.