Eschenlohr, A.; Battiato, M.; Maldonado, P.; Pontius, N.; Kachel, T.; Holldack, K.; Mitzner, R.; Föhlisch, A.; Oppeneer, P.M.; Stamm, C.: Ultrafast spin transport as key to femtosecond demagnetization. Nature Materials 12 (2013), p. 332-336
Irradiating a ferromagnet with a femtosecond laser pulse is known to induce an ultrafast demagnetization within a few hundred femtoseconds. Here we demonstrate that direct laser irradiation is in fact not essential for ultrafast demagnetization, and that electron cascades caused by hot electron currents accomplish it very efficiently. We optically excite a Au/Ni layered structure in which the 30nm Au capping layer absorbs the incident laser pump pulse and subsequently use the X-ray magnetic circular dichroism technique to probe the femtosecond demagnetization of the adjacent 15nm Ni layer. A demagnetization effect corresponding to the scenario in which the laser directly excites the Ni film is observed, but with a slight temporal delay. We explain this unexpected observation by means of the demagnetizing effect of a superdiffusive current of non-equilibrium, non-spin-polarized electrons generated in the Au layer.