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Making a magnet from a piece of iron and a coil or wire, or another magnet, is a simple experiment. An external electric or magnetic field can align groups of atoms in the iron over time so that they take on their own permanent magnetic field. A similar accelerated process stores information on computer hard disks. A special case of magnetism, known as ferrimagnetism, could enable even faster switching of magnetism, leading to massive improvements in the way computers handle information.

Now, an international research group, led by Osaka University physicists, has provided new insight into how the composition of ferrimagnetic materials can affect their interactions with light. They recently reported their findings in Applied Physics Express.

"We know that laser pulses can reverse the magnetization in certain ferrimagnetic alloys, but light also affects other properties of the material," coauthor Hidenori Fujiwara says. "To learn more about the interactions of the magnetism with light, we studied the spin dynamics of ferrimagnetic thin films containing different proportions of gadolinium."

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