Magnetic structures and proximity effects in rare-earth / transition metal ferromagnetic and superconductor systems

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Higgs, Thomas David Charles 

The antiferromagnetic coupling between a rare-earth (RE) and a tran- sition metal (TM) ferromagnet can be exploited to engineer normal state and superconducting functional devices. RE/TM ferromagnetic multi- layers were previously used as spin-mixers to generate spin-triplet su- percurrents. This was possible due to magnetic inhomogeneity present in the devices, however the precise nature of the inhomogeneity was not understood. Here we present a comprehensive study of the Ni/Gd/Ni system using a powerful element-specific measurement technique: x-ray magnetic circular dichroism. In order to analyse the experimental results we present a novel model based on the Stoner-Wohlfarth model, which shows that significant inhomogeneity exists at the Ni/Gd interfaces due to the competition between the exchange energies within the system and the Zeeman energy of the applied magnetic field. The experiment and model together provide a complete overview of the Ni/Gd/Ni system due to the breadth of temperatures and thicknesses studied. The knowledge gained from this work is then applied to designing and test- ing new spin valves based on the intrinsic inhomogeneity at the RE/TM interface, and both Ni/Gd- and Gd/Ho-based devices show reversible magnetic switching behaviour which alters the superconducting critical temperature.

Robinson, Jason
magnetism, superconductivity, thin-film, xmcd, proximity effect, ferromagnet, antiferromagnet, python, rare-earth, transition metal, holium, gadolinium, nickel, niobium, exchange bias
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge