Probing the Ultrafast Dynamics of the Magnetic Phase Transition in FeRh Nanostructures

Primary supervisor

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  • Directly Funded Project (European/UK Students Only)
This research project has funding attached. Funding for this project is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Project description

Recent advances in methods to create arrays of nanoscale magnetic islands are providing new opportunities to study the fundamentals of magnetism at the nanoscale opening up possibilities for a wide range of novel applications. In the quest for new materials systems for spintronics and data storage, alloys made of FeRh have recently generated considerable interest and excitement motivated by its highly unusual properties including an above room temperature antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic phase transition which occurs on a sub-nanosecond time scale and the presence of an electrical resistivity that depends on the orientation of the magnetic moment in antiferromagnetic state. Such properties make FeRh a highly appealing candidate for designing an "antiferromagnetic spintronic" device, a promising concept for the next generation high density/high speed magnetic memory devices.

The project will focus on studying the timescale (psec to nsec) of the antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic phase transition with optical and x-ray based time resolved techniques available at the Paul Scherrer Institute. FeRh magnetic nanostructures will be fabricated building on the expertise developed in Manchester in creating thin films of FeRh on MgO substrates. Particular emphasis will be put on the influence of the patterning of the nanostructures on the physical properties of the sample material. It is envisaged that approximately half of the time will be spent Paul Scherrer Institut and other half at the University of Manchester (the exact split will depend on the scientific needs of the project and the preference of the student). The project will be jointly supervised by Prof. Thomson (Manchester) and Prof. Heyderman (Paul Scherrer Institute).

This funded project is offered as part of an existing collaboration between the Laboratory for Multiscale Materials Experiments at the Paul Scherrer Institute together with the NEST Group in the University of Manchester, UK. The Paul Scherrer Institute PSI is the largest research institute for natural and engineering sciences within Switzerland. We perform cutting-edge research in the fields of matter and materials, energy and environment and human health. By performing fundamental and applied research, we work on sustainable solutions for major challenges facing society, science and economy. PSI is committed to the training of future generations. Therefore about one quarter of our staff are post-docs, post-graduates or apprentices. Altogether PSI employs 2100 people.

Requirements: Excellent qualifications with a university degree (Master or equivalent) in physics, electrical engineering, materials sciences, or a similar subject are required. Knowledge in the field of magnetism, solid state or surface physics would be of benefit. You should enjoy practical work and have a flexible approach, working between the two locations of Manchester in the UK and Villigen in Switzerland. You will be registered as a Ph.D. student and employed by the University of Manchester.

Person specification

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Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You must be capable of performing at a very high level.
  • You must have a self-driven interest in uncovering and solving unknown problems and be able to work hard and creatively without constant supervision.


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You will possess determination (which is often more important than qualifications) although you'll need a good amount of both.
  • You will have good time management.


Applicants will be required to address the following.

  • Discuss your final year Undergraduate project work - and if appropriate your MSc project work.
  • How well does your previous study prepare you for undertaking Postgraduate Research?
  • Comment on your transcript/predicted degree marks, outlining both strong and weak points.
  • Why do you believe you are suitable for doing Postgraduate Research?
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