This booklet collects the results of my work as a doctoral student of the Ph.D. School in Physics, Astrophysics and Applied Physics at Universit`a degli Studi di Milano, that has been carried out since November 2020 at Istituto Officina dei Materiali of Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (IOM-CNR) and within the framework of Nanoscale Foundries and Fine Analysis (NFFA) consortium.
My experimental activity addressed the coupling of magnetic and acoustic degrees of freedom in transition-metal ferromagnetic systems. Within the NFFA-SPRINT laboratory, hosted in the premises of the facility FERMI@Elettra (Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste), I developed a setup to perform optical Transient-Grating spectroscopy, and correlative time-resolved optical spectroscopies (time-resolved reflectivity and polarimetry). Via sub-picosecond optical pulses, acoustic and magnetic transients are impulsively generated: their intertwined evolution and decay are monitored via time-resolved optical probing.
In a first experiment, a Ni thin film was investigated via Transient-Grating spectroscopy. Acoustically-driven magnetization precession was observed at the condition of crossing of phononic and magnonic dispersions, at finite wavevector. With the aid of correlative ferromagnetic resonance measurements the boundary of applicability of the proposed experimental approach was established.
In a second experiment, time-resolved magneto-optical polarimetry was employed to investigate magneto-acoustic waves excited in a ferromagnetic nanostructured array. The details of the magnon-phonon mode crossing allowed to identify experimental features which qualify the degree of coherence in the coupling; a Hamiltonian model was proposed to account for the observations.
Long-range electronic ordering descending from a metallic parent state constitutes a rich playground to study the interplay of structural and electronic degrees of freedom. In this framework, kagome metals are in the most interesting regime where both phonon and electronically mediated couplings are significant. Several of these systems undergo a charge density wave transition. However, to date, the origin and the main driving force behind this charge order is elusive. Here, we use the kagome metal ScV6Sn6 as a platform to investigate this problem, since it features both a kagome-derived nested Fermi surface and van-Hove singularities near the Fermi level, and a charge-ordered phase that strongly affects its physical properties. By combining time-resolved reflectivity, first principles calculations and photo-emission experiments, we identify the structural degrees of freedom to play a fundamental role in the stabilization of charge order, indicating that ScV6Sn6 features an instance of charge order predominantly originating from phonons.
Kagome materials have emerged as a setting for emergent electronic phenomena that encompass different aspects of symmetry and topology. It is debated whether the XV6Sn6 kagome family (where X is a rare-earth element), a recently discovered family of bilayer kagome metals, hosts a topologically non-trivial ground state resulting from the opening of spin–orbit coupling gaps. These states would carry a finite spin Berry curvature, and topological surface states. Here we investigate the spin and electronic structure of the XV6Sn6 kagome family. We obtain evidence for a finite spin Berry curvature contribution at the centre of the Brillouin zone, where the nearly flat band detaches from the dispersing Dirac band because of spin–orbit coupling. In addition, the spin Berry curvature is further investigated in the charge density wave regime of ScV6Sn6 and it is found to be robust against the onset of the temperature-driven ordered phase. Utilizing the sensitivity of angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to the spin and orbital angular momentum, our work unveils the spin Berry curvature of topological kagome metals and helps to define its spectroscopic fingerprint.
We report on the growth and characterization of epitaxial YBa2Cu3O7−δ (YBCO) complex oxide thin films and related heterostructures exclusively by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) and using first harmonic Nd:Y3Al5O12 (Nd:YAG) pulsed laser source (λ = 1064 nm). High-quality epitaxial YBCO thin film heterostructures display superconducting properties with transition temperature ∼ 80 K. Compared with the excimer lasers, when using Nd:YAG lasers, the optimal growth conditions are achieved at a large target-to-substrate distance d. These results clearly demonstrate the potential use of the first harmonic Nd:YAG laser source as an alternative to the excimer lasers for the PLD thin film community. Its compactness as well as the absence of any safety issues related to poisonous gas represent a major breakthrough in the deposition of complex multi-element compounds in form of thin films.
Here, we present an integrated ultra-high-vacuum (UHV) apparatus for the growth of complex materials and heterostructures. The specific growth technique is the Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) by means of a dual-laser source based on an excimer KrF ultraviolet and solid-state Nd:YAG infra-red lasers. By taking advantage of the two laser sources—both lasers can be independently used within the deposition chambers—a large number of different materials—ranging from oxides to metals, to selenides, and others—can be successfully grown in the form of thin films and heterostructures. All of the samples can be in situ transferred between the deposition chambers and the analysis chambers by using vessels and holders’ manipulators. The apparatus also offers the possibility to transfer samples to remote instrumentation under UHV conditions by means of commercially available UHV-suitcases. The dual-PLD operates for in-house research as well as user facility in combination with the Advanced Photo-electric Effect beamline at the Elettra synchrotron radiation facility in Trieste and allows synchrotron-based photo-emission as well as x-ray absorption experiments on pristine films and heterostructures.
The possibility of modifying the ferromagnetic response of a multiferroic heterostructure via fully optical means exploiting the photovoltaic/photostrictive properties of the ferroelectric component is an effective method for tuning the interfacial properties. In this study, the effects of 405 nm visible-light illumination on the ferroelectric and ferromagnetic responses of (001) Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3-0.4PbTiO3 (PMN-PT)/Ni heterostructures are presented. By combining electrical, structural, magnetic, and spectroscopic measurements, how light illumination above the ferroelectric bandgap energy induces a photovoltaic current and the photostrictive effect reduces the coercive field of the interfacial magnetostrictive Ni layer are shown. Firstly, a light-induced variation in the Ni orbital moment as a result of sum-rule analysis of x-ray magnetic circular dichroic measurements is reported. The reduction of orbital moment reveals a photogenerated strain field. The observed effect is strongly reduced when polarizing out-of-plane the PMN-PT substrate, showing a highly anisotropic photostrictive contribution from the in-plane ferroelectric domains. These results shed light on the delicate energy balance that leads to sizeable light-induced effects in multiferroic heterostructures, while confirming the need of spectroscopy for identifying the physical origin of interface behavior.
The generation and control of surface acoustic waves (SAWs) in a magnetic material are objects of an intense research effort focused on magnetoelastic properties, with fruitful ramifications in spin-wave-based quantum logic and magnonics. We implement a transient grating setup to optically generate SAWs also seeding coherent spin waves via magnetoelastic coupling in ferromagnetic media. In this work we report on SAW-driven ferromagnetic resonance (FMR) experiments performed on polycrystalline Ni thin films in combination with time-resolved Faraday polarimetry, which allows extraction of the value of the effective magnetization and of the Gilbert damping. The results are in full agreement with measurements on the very same samples from standard FMR. Higher-order effects due to parametric modulation of the magnetization dynamics, such as down-conversion, up-conversion, and frequency mixing, are observed, testifying the high sensitivity of this technique.
The femtosecond evolution of the electronic temperature of laser-excited gold nanoparticles is measured, by means of ultrafast time-resolved photoemission spectroscopy induced by extreme-ultraviolet radiation pulses. The temperature of the electron gas is deduced by recording and fitting high-resolution photo emission spectra around the Fermi edge of gold nanoparticles providing a direct, unambiguous picture of the ultrafast electron-gas dynamics. These results will be instrumental to the refinement of existing models of femtosecond processes in laterally-confined and bulk condensed-matter systems, and for understanding more deeply the role of hot electrons in technological applications.
Here, we report on a novel narrowband High Harmonic Generation (HHG) light source designed for ultrafast photoelectron spectroscopy (PES) on solids. Notably, at 16.9 eV photon energy, the harmonics bandwidth equals 19 meV. This result has been obtained by seeding the HHG process with 230 fs pulses at 515 nm. The ultimate energy resolution achieved on a polycrystalline Au sample at 40 K is ∼22 meV at 16.9 eV. These parameters set a new benchmark for narrowband HHG sources and have been obtained by varying the repetition rate up to 200 kHz and, consequently, mitigating the space charge, operating with ≈3×107 electrons/s and ≈5×108 photons/s. By comparing the harmonics bandwidth and the ultimate energy resolution with a pulse duration of ∼105 fs (as retrieved from time-resolved experiments on bismuth selenide), we demonstrate a new route for ultrafast space-charge-free PES experiments on solids close to transform-limit conditions.
The present thesis work has been performed within a new-born laboratory called Spin Polar-ization Research Instrument in the Nanoscale and Time domain (SPRINT laboratory), as apart of the research infrastructures circuit NFFA-Trieste (Nano Foundries and Fine Analysis -belonging to the wider NFFA-Europe circuit) and hosted in the experimental hall of the freeelectron laser FERMI@Elettra.The SPRINT laboratory rises as an answer to the urgent request of the scientific communityof extension of photoemission spectroscopies (PES), not only energy-, but possibly also angle-and spin-resolved, to the time domain in the sub-picosecond regime. The integration of a PESapparatus within a setup for stroboscopic measurements (that is in a pump-probe scheme) pavesthe way to time resolved study of the relaxation of optically populated electronic states, thusenabling the study the ultrafast dynamics of the excitations inside the materials, with greatbenefit from both the fundamental and the technological point of view.