Publications by Shilei Zhang


Real-space observation of skyrmionium in a ferromagnet-magnetic topological insulator heterostructure

Nano Letters American Chemical Society 18 (2018) 1057-1063

S Zhang, F Kronast, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

The combination of topological insulators, i.e., bulk insulators with gapless, topologically protected surface states, with magnetic order is a love-hate relationship that can unlock new quantum states and exotic physical phenomena, such as the quantum anomalous Hall effect and axion electrodynamics. Moreover, the unusual coupling between topological insulators and ferromagnets can also result in the formation of topological spin textures in the ferromagnetic layer. Skyrmions are topologically-protected magnetization swirls that are promising candidates for spintronics memory carriers. Here, we report on the observation of skyrmionium in thin ferromagnetic films coupled to a magnetic topological insulator. The occurrence of skyrmionium, which appears as a soliton composed of two skyrmions with opposite winding numbers, is tied to the ferromagnetic state of the topological insulator. Our work presents a new combination of two important classes of topological materials and may open the door to new topologically inspired information-storage concepts in the future.


Direct observation of twisted surface Skyrmions in bulk crystals

Physical Review Letters American Physical Society 120 (2018) 227202

S Zhang, G van der Laan, WW Wang, A Haghighirad, T Hesjedal

Magnetic skyrmions in noncentrosymmetric helimagnets with Dn symmetry are Bloch-type magnetization swirls with a helicity angle of ±90∘. At the surface of helimagnetic thin films below a critical thickness, a twisted skyrmion state with arbitrary helicity angle has been proposed, however, its direct experimental observation has remained elusive. Here, we show that circularly polarized resonant elastic x-ray scattering is able to unambiguously measure the helicity angle of surface skyrmions, providing direct experimental evidence that a twisted skyrmion surface state also exists in bulk systems. The exact surface helicity angles of twisted skyrmions for both left- and right-handed chiral bulk Cu2OSeO3, in the single as well as in the multidomain skyrmion lattice state, are determined, revealing their detailed internal structure. Our findings suggest that a skyrmion surface reconstruction is a universal phenomenon, stemming from the breaking of translational symmetry at the interface.


Reciprocal space tomography of 3D skyrmion lattice order in a chiral magnet

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Sciences 115 (2018) 6386-6391

S Zhang, G van der Laan, J Mueller, L Heinen, M Garst, A Bauer, H Berger, C Pfleiderer, T Hesjedal

It is commonly assumed that surfaces modify the properties of stable materials within the top few atomic layers of a bulk specimen only. Exploiting the polarization dependence of resonant elastic X-ray scattering to go beyond conventional diffraction and imaging techniques, we have determined the depth dependence of the full 3D spin structure of skyrmions—that is, topologically nontrivial whirls of the magnetization—below the surface of a bulk sample of Cu2OSeO3. We found that the skyrmions change exponentially from pure Néel- to pure Bloch-twisting over a distance of several hundred nanometers between the surface and the bulk, respectively. Though qualitatively consistent with theory, the strength of the Néel-twisting at the surface and the length scale of the variation observed experimentally exceed material-specific modeling substantially. In view of the exceptionally complete quantitative theoretical account of the magnetic rigidities and associated static and dynamic properties of skyrmions in Cu2OSeO3 and related materials, we conclude that subtle changes of the materials properties must exist at distances up to several hundred atomic layers into the bulk, which originate in the presence of the surface. This has far-reaching implications for the creation of skyrmions in surface-dominated systems and identifies, more generally, surface-induced gradual variations deep within a bulk material and their impact on tailored functionalities as an unchartered scientific territory.


Manipulation of skyrmion motion by magnetic field gradients

Nature Communications Springer Nature 9 (2018) 2115

SL Zhang, WW Wang, DM Burn, H Peng, H Berger, A Bauer, C Pfleiderer, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Magnetic skyrmions are particle-like, topologically protected magnetisation entities that are promising candidates as information carriers in racetrack memory. The transport of skyrmions in a shift-register-like fashion is crucial for their embodiment in practical devices. Here, we demonstrate that chiral skyrmions in Cu2OSeO3 can be effectively manipulated under the influence of a magnetic field gradient. In a radial field gradient, skyrmions were found to rotate collectively, following a given velocity–radius relationship. As a result of this relationship, and in competition with the elastic properties of the skyrmion lattice, the rotating ensemble disintegrates into a shell-like structure of discrete circular racetracks. Upon reversing the field direction, the rotation sense reverses. Field gradients therefore offer an effective handle for the fine control of skyrmion motion, which is inherently driven by magnon currents. In this scheme, no local electric currents are needed, thus presenting a different approach to shift-register-type operations based on spin transfer torque.


Proposal of a micromagnetic standard problem for ferromagnetic resonance simulations

ArXiv arXiv (2016)

AA Baker, M Beg, G Ashton, M Albert, D Chernyshenko, W Wang, S Zhang, M-A Bisotti, M Franchin, CL Lu, R Stamps, T Hesjedal, H Fangohr

Nowadays, micromagnetic simulations are a common tool for studying a wide range of different magnetic phenomena, including the ferromagnetic resonance. A technique for evaluating reliability and validity of different micromagnetic simulation tools is the simulation of proposed standard problems. We propose a new standard problem by providing a detailed specification and analysis of a sufficiently simple problem. By analyzing the magnetization dynamics in a thin permalloy square sample, triggered by a well defined excitation, we obtain the ferromagnetic resonance spectrum and identify the resonance modes via Fourier transform. Simulations are performed using both finite difference and finite element numerical methods, with OOMMF and Nmag simulators, respectively. We report the effects of initial conditions and simulation parameters on the character of the observed resonance modes for this standard problem. We provide detailed instructions and code to assist in using the results for evaluation of new simulator tools, and to help with numerical calculation of ferromagnetic resonance spectra and modes in general.


Proposal of a micromagnetic standard problem for ferromagnetic resonance simulations

Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Elsevier 421 (2016) 428-439

AA Baker, M Beg, G Ashton, M Albert, D Chernyshenko, W Wang, S Zhang, M-A Bisotti, M Franchin, CL Hu, R Stamps, T Hesjedal, H Fangohr

Nowadays, micromagnetic simulations are a common tool for studying a wide range of different magnetic phenomena, including the ferromagnetic resonance. A technique for evaluating reliability and validity of different micromagnetic simulation tools is the simulation of proposed standard problems. We propose a new standard problem by providing a detailed specification and analysis of a sufficiently simple problem. By analyzing the magnetization dynamics in a thin permalloy square sample, triggered by a well defined excitation, we obtain the ferromagnetic resonance spectrum and identify the resonance modes via Fourier transform. Simulations are performed using both finite difference and finite element numerical methods, with OOMMF and Nmag simulators, respectively. We report the effects of initial conditions and simulation parameters on the character of the observed resonance modes for this standard problem. We provide detailed instructions and code to assist in using the results for evaluation of new simulator tools, and to help with numerical calculation of ferromagnetic resonance spectra and modes in general.


Room-temperature helimagnetism in FeGe thin films

Scientific Reports Nature Publishing Group 7 (2017) 123

S Zhang, I Stasinopoulos, T Lancaster, F Xiao, A Bauer, F Rucker, AA Baker, AI Figueroa, Z Salman, FL Pratt, SJ Blundell, T Prokscha, A Suter, J Waizner, M Garst, D Grundler, G van der Laan, C Pfleiderer, T Hesjedal

Chiral magnets are promising materials for the realisation of high-density and low-power spintronic memory devices. For these future applications, a key requirement is the synthesis of appropriate materials in the form of thin films ordering well above room temperature. Driven by the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction, the cubic compound FeGe exhibits helimagnetism with a relatively high transition temperature of 278K in bulk crystals. We demonstrate that this temperature can be enhanced significantly in thin films. Using x-ray spectroscopic and ferromagnetic resonance techniques, we provide unambiguous experimental evidence for long-wavelength helimagnetic order at room temperature and magnetic properties similar to the bulk material. We obtain αintr = 0:0036 ± 0:0003 at 310K for the intrinsic damping parameter. We probe the dynamics of the system by means of muon-spin rotation, indicating that the ground state is reached via a freezing out of slow dynamics. Our work paves the way towards the fabrication of thin films of chiral magnets that host certain spin whirls, so-called skyrmions, at room temperature and potentially offer integrability into modern electronics.


Direct experimental determination of the topological winding number of skyrmions in Cu2OSeO3

Nature Communications Springer Nature 8 (2017) 14619

SL Zhang, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

The mathematical concept of topology has brought about significant advantages that allow for a fundamental understanding of the underlying physics of a system. In magnetism, the topology of spin order manifests itself in the topological winding number which plays a pivotal role for the determination of the emergent properties of a system. However, the direct experimental determination of the topological winding number of a magnetically ordered system remains elusive. Here, we present a direct relationship between the topological winding number of the spin texture and the polarized resonant X-ray scattering process. This relationship provides a one-to-one correspondence between the measured scattering signal and the winding number. We demonstrate that the exact topological quantities of the skyrmion material Cu2OSeO3 can be directly experimentally determined this way. This technique has the potential to be applicable to a wide range of materials, allowing for a direct determination of their topological properties.


Direct experimental determination of spiral spin structures via the dichroism extinction effect in resonant elastic soft X-ray scattering

Physical Review B American Physical Society 96 (2017) 094401

SL Zhang, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Long-wavelength spin spiral structures are ubiquitous in a large variety of magnetic materials. The detailed magnetic structure can take many variations owing to their different physical origins. Therefore, the unambiguous structural determination is crucial for understanding these spin systems, though such a task is experimentally challenging. Here we show that ordered spin spiral structures can be fully determined in a single measurement by dichroic resonant elastic x-ray scattering using circularly polarized light. It is found that at certain geometrical conditions, the circular dichroism of the diffraction vanishes completely, revealing a one-to-one correspondence with the spin structure. We demonstrate both theoretically and experimentally this experimental principle, which allows for unambiguous structure determination immediately from the measured signal, whereby no modeling- based data refinement is needed. This largely expands the capabilities of conventional magnetic characterization techniques.


Strain in epitaxial MnSi films on Si(111) in the thick film limit studied by polarization-dependent extended x-ray absorption fine structure

Physical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics American Physical Society (2016)

AI Figueroa, SL Zhang, AA Baker, R Chalasani, A Kohn, SC Speller, D Gianolio, C Pfleiderer, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

We report a study of the strain state of epitaxial MnSi films on Si(111) substrates in the thick film limit (100-500 A) as a function of film thickness using polarization-dependent extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS). All films investigated are phase-pure and of high quality with a sharp interface between MnSi and Si. The investigated MnSi films are in a thickness regime where the magnetic transition temperature Tc assumes a thickness-independent enhanced value of ≥43 K as compared with that of bulk MnSi, where Tc ≈ 29 K. A detailed refinement of the EXAFS data reveals that the Mn positions are unchanged, whereas the Si positions vary along the out-of-plane [111]-direction, alternating in orientation from unit cell to unit cell. Thus, for thick MnSi films, the unit cell volume is essentially that of bulk MnSi — except in the vicinity of the interface with the Si substrate (thin film limit). In view of the enhanced magnetic transition temperature we conclude that the mere presence of the interface, and its specific characteristics, strongly affects the magnetic properties of the entire MnSi film, even far from the interface. Our analysis provides invaluable information about the local strain at the MnSi/Si(111) interface. The presented methodology of polarization dependent EXAFS can also be employed to investigate the local structure of other interesting interfaces.


Engineering helimagnetism in MnSi thin films

AIP Advances American Institute of Physics 6 (2016) 015217

S Zhang, R Chalasani, AA Baker, N-J Steinke, AI Figueroa, A Kohn, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Magnetic skyrmion materials have the great advantage of a robust topological magnetic structure, which makes them stable against the superparamagnetic effect and therefore a candidate for the next-generation of spintronic memory devices. Bulk MnSi, with an ordering temperature of 29.5 K, is a typical skyrmion system with a propagation vector periodicity of ∼18 nm. One crucial prerequisite for any kind of application, however, is the observation and precise control of skyrmions in thin films at room-temperature. Strain in epitaxial MnSi thin films is known to raise the transition temperature to 43 K. Here we show, using magnetometry and x-ray spectroscopy, that the transition temperature can be raised further through proximity coupling to a ferromagnetic layer. Similarly, the external field required to stabilize the helimagnetic phase is lowered. Transmission electron microscopy with element-sensitive detection is used to explore the structural origin of ferromagnetism in these Mn-doped substrates. Our work suggests that an artificial pinning layer, not limited to the MnSi/Si system, may enable room temperature, zero-field skyrmion thin-film systems, thereby opening the door to device applications.


Transverse field muon-spin rotation measurement of the topological anomaly in a thin film of MnSi

Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics American Physical Society 93 (2016) 140412(R)

T Lancaster, F Xiao, Z Salman, IO Thomas, SJ Blundell, F Pratt, SJ Clark, T Prokscha, A Suter, SL Zhang, AA Baker, T Hesjedal

We present the results of transverse-field muon-spin rotation measurements on an epitaxially grown 40-nm-thick film of MnSi on Si(111) in the region of the field-temperature phase diagram where a skyrmion phase has been observed in the bulk. We identify changes in the quasistatic magnetic field distribution sampled by the muon, along with evidence for magnetic transitions around T≈40 and 30 K. Our results suggest that the cone phase is not the only magnetic texture realized in film samples for out-of-plane fields.


Imaging and manipulation of skyrmion lattice domains in Cu2OSeO3

Applied Physics Letters American Institute of Physics 109 (2016) 192406-

S Zhang, A Bauer, H Berger, C Pfleiderer, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Nanoscale chiral skyrmions in noncentrosymmetric helimagnets are promising binary state variables in highdensity, low-energy nonvolatile memory. Nevertheless, they normally appear in an ordered, single-domain lattice phase, which makes it difficult to write information unless they are spatially broken up into smaller units, each representing a bit. Thus, the formation and manipulation of skyrmion lattice domains is a prerequisite for memory applications. Here, using an imaging technique based on resonant magnetic x-ray diffraction, we demonstrate the mapping and manipulation of skyrmion lattice domains in Cu2OSeO3. The material is particularly interesting for applications owing to its insulating nature, allowing for electric fielddriven domain manipulation.


Resonant elastic x-ray scattering from the skyrmion lattice in Cu₂OSeO₃

Physical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics American Physical Society 93 (2016) 214420-

S Zhang, A Bauer, H Berger, C Pfleiderer, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

We report the study of the skyrmion state near the surface of Cu₂OSeO₃ using soft resonant elastic x-ray scattering (REXS) at the Cu L₃ edge. Within the lateral sampling area of 200 × 200 µm², we found a long-range-ordered skyrmion lattice phase as well as the formation of skyrmion domains via the multiple splitting of the diffraction spots. In a recent REXS study of the skyrmion phase of Cu₂OSeO₃ [Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 167202 (2014)], Langner et al. reported a double-splitting which they interpret as arising from the moiré pattern of two superposed skyrmion sublattices, originating from the two inequivalent Cu sites. However, we find no energy splitting of the Cu peak in xray absorption measurements, which is to be expected considering the system in more detail. We show that the experimental data reported by Langner et al. does not support their interpretation and discuss alternative origins of the peak splitting. In particular, we find that for magnetic field directions deviating from the major cubic axes, a multidomain skyrmion lattice state is obtained, which consistently explains the splitting of the magnetic spots into two—and more—peaks.


Multidomain Skyrmion Lattice State in Cu₂OSeO₃

Nano Letters American Chemical Society 16 (2016) 3285-3291

SL Zhang, A Bauer, DM Burn, P Milde, E Neuber, LM Eng, H Berger, C Pfleiderer, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Magnetic skyrmions in chiral magnets are nanoscale, topologically-protected magnetization swirls that are promising candidates for spintronics memory carriers. Therefore, observing and manipulating the skyrmion state on the surface level of the materials are of great importance for future applications. Here, we report a controlled way of creating a multidomain skyrmion state near the surface of a Cu₂OSeO₃ single crystal, observed by soft resonant elastic x-ray scattering. This technique is an ideal tool to probe the magnetic order at the L₃ edge of 3d metal compounds giving a depth sensitivity of ~50 nm. The single-domain sixfold-symmetric skyrmion lattice can be broken up into domains overcoming the propagation directions imposed by the cubic anisotropy by applying the magnetic field in directions deviating from the major cubic axes. Our findings open the door to a new way to manipulate and engineer the skyrmion state locally on the surface, or on the level of individual skyrmions, which will enable applications in the future.


The Magneto-Hall Difference and the Planar Extraordinary Hall Balance

AIP Advances American Institute of Physics (2016)

T Hesjedal, SL Zhang

The extraordinary Hall balance (EHB) is a general device concept that harnesses the net extraordinary Hall effect (EHE) arising from two independent magnetic layers, which are electrically in parallel. Different EHB behavior can be achieved by tuning the strength and type of interlayer coupling, i.e., ferromagnetic or antiferromagnetic of varying strength, allowing for logic and memory applications. The physics of the EHE in such a multilayered systems, especially the interface-induced effect, will be discussed. A discrepancy between the magnetization and the Hall effect, called the magneto-Hall difference (MHD) is found, which is not expected in conventional EHE systems. By taking advantage of the MHD effect, and by optimizing the materials structure, magnetoresistance ratios in excess of 40,000% can be achieved at room-temperature. We present a new design, the planar EHB, which has the potential to achieve significantly larger magnetoresistance ratios.


Topological computation based on direct magnetic logic communication

Scientific Reports Nature Publishing Group 5 (2015)

S Zhang, AA Baker, S Komineas, T Hesjedal

Non-uniform magnetic domains with non-trivial topology, such as vortices and skyrmions, are proposed as superior state variables for nonvolatile information storage. So far, the possibility of logic operations using topological objects has not been considered. Here, we demonstrate numerically that the topology of the system plays a significant role for its dynamics, using the example of vortex-antivortex pairs in a planar ferromagnetic film. Utilising the dynamical properties and geometrical confinement, direct logic communication between the topological memory carriers is realised. This way, no additional magnetic-to-electrical conversion is required. More importantly, the information carriers can spontaneously travel up to ~300 nm, for which no spin-polarised current is required. The derived logic scheme enables topological spintronics, which can be integrated into large-scale memory and logic networks capable of complex computations.


Study of Dy-doped Bi₂Te₃: thin film growth and magnetic properties.

Journal of physics. Condensed matter : an Institute of Physics journal 27 (2015) 245602-

SE Harrison, LJ Collins-McIntyre, S-L Zhang, AA Baker, AI Figueroa, AJ Kellock, A Pushp, SSP Parkin, JS Harris, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Breaking the time-reversal symmetry (TRS) in topological insulators (TIs) through ferromagnetic doping is an essential prerequisite for unlocking novel physical phenomena and exploring potential device applications. Here, we report the successful growth of high-quality (Dy(x)Bi(1-x))2Te3 thin films with Dy concentrations up to x = 0.355 by molecular beam epitaxy. Bulk-sensitive magnetisation studies using superconducting quantum interference device magnetometry find paramagnetic behaviour down to 2 K for the entire doping series. The effective magnetic moment, μeff, is strongly doping concentration-dependent and reduces from ∼12.6 μ(B) Dy(-1) for x = 0.023 to ∼4.3 μ(B) Dy(-1) for x = 0.355. X-ray absorption spectra and x-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) at the Dy M4,5 edge are employed to provide a deeper insight into the magnetic nature of the Dy(3+)-doped films. XMCD, measured in surface-sensitive total-electron-yield detection, gives μ(eff )= 4.2 μ(B) Dy(-1). The large measured moments make Dy-doped films interesting TI systems in which the TRS may be broken via the proximity effect due to an adjacent ferromagnetic insulator.


Universal Magnetic Hall Circuit Based on Paired Spin Heterostructures

ADVANCED ELECTRONIC MATERIALS 1 (2015) ARTN 1400054

S Zhang, AA Baker, J-Y Zhang, G Yu, S Wang, T Hesjedal


Study of Ho-doped Bi2Te3 topological insulator thin films

Applied Physics Letters American Institute of Physics 107 (2015) 1-1

SE Harrison, LJ Collins-McIntyre, S Zhang, AA Baker, AI Figueroa, AJ Kellock, A Pushp, YL Chen, SSP Parkin, JS Harris, G van der Laan, T Hesjedal

Breaking time-reversal symmetry through magnetic doping of topological insulators has been identified as a key strategy for unlocking exotic physical states. Here, we report the growth of Bi2Te3 thin films doped with the highest magnetic moment element Ho. Diffraction studies demonstrate high quality films for up to 21% Ho incorporation. Superconducting quantum interference device magnetometry reveals paramagnetism down to 2 K with an effective magnetic moment of ~mu_B/Ho. Angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy shows that the topological surface state remains intact with Ho doping, consistent with the material’s paramagnetic state. The large saturation moment achieved makes these films useful for incorporation into heterostructures, whereby magnetic order can be introduced via interfacial coupling.

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