Femtosecond control of electric currents in metallic ferromagnetic heterostructures

Nat Nanotechnol. 2016 May;11(5):455-8. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2015.331. Epub 2016 Feb 8.


The idea to use not only the charge but also the spin of electrons in the operation of electronic devices has led to the development of spintronics, causing a revolution in how information is stored and processed. A novel advancement would be to develop ultrafast spintronics using femtosecond laser pulses. Employing terahertz (10(12) Hz) emission spectroscopy and exploiting the spin-orbit interaction, we demonstrate the optical generation of electric photocurrents in metallic ferromagnetic heterostructures at the femtosecond timescale. The direction of the photocurrent is controlled by the helicity of the circularly polarized light. These results open up new opportunities for realizing spintronics in the unprecedented terahertz regime and provide new insights in all-optical control of magnetism.