Potential energy surfaces and rates of spin transitions

Pavel F. Bessarab*, Valery M. Uzdin, Hannes Jónsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The stability of magnetic states and the mechanism for magnetic transitions can be analyzed in terms of the shape of the energy surface, which gives the energy as a function of the angles determining the orientation of the magnetic moments. Minima on the energy surface correspond to stable or metastable magnetic states and can represent parallel, antiparallel or, more generally, non-collinear arrangements. A rate theory has been developed for systems with arbitrary number, N, of magnetic moments, to estimate the thermal stability of magnetic states and the mechanism for magnetic transitions based on a transition state theory approach. The minimum energy path on the 2N-dimensional energy surface is determined to identify the transition mechanism and estimate the activation energy barrier. A pre-exponential factor in the rate expression is obtained from the Landau-Lifshitz-Gilbert equation for spin dynamics. The velocity is zero at saddle points so it is particularly important in this context to realize that the transition state is a dividing surface with 2N -1 degrees of freedom, not just a saddle point. An application of this rate theory to nanoscale Fe islands on W(110) has revealed how the transition mechanism and rate depend on island shape and size. Qualitative agreement is obtained with experimental measurements both for the activation energy and the pre-exponential factor. In particular, a distinct maximum is observed in the pre-exponential factor for islands where two possible transition mechanisms are competing: Uniform rotation and the formation of a temporary domain wall. The entropy of the transition state is enhanced for those islands making the pre-exponential factor more than an order of magnitude larger than for islands were only the uniform rotation is viable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1543-1557
Number of pages15
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Magnetic Memory
  • Magnetic Nano-Islands
  • Potential Energy Surface
  • Rate Theory
  • Spin Transitions


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