There has been an explosion of interest in skyrmions in recent years, with the very first x-ray images of skyrmion dynamics being released recently. Skyrmions exist in magnetic thin films as nanoscale whirls of magnetization. Their topological stability, nanoscale size and potential for energy-efficient manipulation means that they are being actively developed for technological applications.
In this project, electron microscopy combined with intense polarised x-rays in a PhotoEmission Electron Microscope (PEEM) will be used to image skyrmions and their dynamics in thin magnetic films under strain. A major avenue of the research will involve manipulating skyrmion shape via strain from a piezoelectric transducer which significantly affects their magnetization dynamics. The aim of this project is then to understand how static or impulsive strain influences skyrmion dynamics using the high-resolution magnetic imaging capabilities of the PEEM housed at the UK national synchrotron facility (Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire).
The ultimate goal is to build computing components, such as neural networks, that use skyrmions under strain as key functional parts. The project will begin at Leeds with the nanofabrication of arrays of magnetic thin film disks containing skyrmions, which will be placed on a piezoelectric transducer. A substantial part of this project is based at Diamond Light Source where magnetic imaging using the PEEM will be developed to understand novel skyrmion spin textures under strain. The work at Diamond Light Source will also involve developing the capability of a new aberration-corrected PEEM which will allow imaging skyrmion spin textures at the highest spatial resolution available.
This studentship is funded jointly by Diamond Light Source and the University of Leeds.