Press release 69/23 - 22.09.2023

From north to south through the antiferromagnetic jungle

Current basic research on magnetisation can open up new avenues in the development of much smaller electronic components for the electronics of the future.

Researchers from the Universities of Augsburg and Groningen were able to show that the standard picture of magnetisation reversal needs to be expanded. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications and not only enrich basic research, but also open up new perspectives in the field of controlling magnetisation on the smallest scales, thus offering great potential for developing much smaller electronic devices for the electronics of the future.
Magnetisation reversal in Zn-doped Fe_2Mo_3O_8 happens on an atomic scale, in contrast to the conventional compensation of macro- or microscopic domains © University of Augsburg

Almost everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of refrigerator magnets that lose their magnetization over time and simply fall off. The fact that the "adhesive force" of the magnets can be restored by bringing the magnet near another, still magnetized magnet, is one of the first things taught to students about magnetism and an everyday example of the behavior of ferromagnetic materials in a magnetic field. This so-called hysteresis behavior also includes the ability to "reverse" the magnetization of the ferromagnetic material by changing the direction of the applied magnetic field. This process is one of the most important technological applications of magnetic materials, ranging from magnetic storage media to switching elements in microelectronics.

In this magnetization reversal, there is a point at which the magnetization becomes zero before it changes direction. This state is typically described by the occurrence of macro- or microscopic domains in the magnetic material whose magnetizations point in different directions, so they cancel each other out and the overall magnetization disappears.

In their recently published article in "Nature Communications" titled "Magnetization reversal through an antiferromagnetic state," a group of Augsburg scientists led by Dr. Somnath Ghara and Dr. Joachim Deisenhofer (from the research group of Prof. Istvan Kezsmarki) along with colleagues from Groningen, demonstrated that this standard picture of magnetization reversal, achieved through the compensation of domains at a macro- or microscopic scale, does not apply to all materials and needs to be expanded. The researchers combined measurements of magnetization, electric polarization, optical properties in the THz frequency range, and theoretical simulations to find out that the magnetization reversal in the polar magnet (Fe:Zn)2Mo3O8 occurs through an antiferromagnetic state, i.e., a state where the compensation of magnetization occurs not just on a macro- or microscopic scale but at the atomic level. These quantum materials are also at the core of the new Transregional Collaborative Research Center TRR360, approved by the German Research Foundation, led by the University of Augsburg and TU Munich.

This discovery is not only remarkable from the standpoint of basic research in the field of magnetization phenomena, but it also opens up new perspectives in the area of controlling magnetization on the smallest scales, thus offering great potential for the development of much smaller electronic components for the electronics of the future. The fact that the characteristic optical excitations of the material lie in the THz frequency range also opens up additional possibilities for extremely fast switching processes in the field of spintronics.

Ghara, S., Barts, E., Vasin, K. et al. Magnetization reversal through an antiferromagnetic state. Nat Commun 14, 5174 (2023).


Scientific Contact

Academic staff
Experimental Physics V
Academic Staff
Experimental Physics V

Media Contact

Michael Hallermayer
Deputy Media Officer
Communications and Media Relations