The current achievements in magnetic transmission soft X-ray microscopy will be reviewed. The magnetic contrast is given by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (X-MCD), i.e., the dependence of the absorption coefficient of circularly polarized X rays on the projection of the magnetization in a ferromagnetic system onto the photon propagation direction. X-MCD contrast can reach, e.g., at L2,3 edges in transition metals, large values up to 50%. Combined with a soft X-ray microscope where Fresnel zone plates acting as optical elements provide a lateral resolution down at 25 nm, it allows for imaging magnetic microstructures. Specific features of this photon-based technique are the recording of images in varying external magnetic fields, an inherent chemical specificity, a high sensitivity to thin magnetic layers, due to the large contrast, and the possibility to distinguish between in-plane and out-of plane contributions. In this report, recent results obtained with the XM-1 microscope at the ALS (Berkeley/CA) demonstrate the broad applicability of this novel experimental technique to both fundamental and technological relevant issues in nanomagnetism. The future potential will be briefly outlined.
X-ray magnetic circular dichroism soft X-ray microscopy magnetic domain structure circular polarized synchrotron radiation Fresnel zone plates