We report on a magnetic imaging study of the Fe/NiO/Fe(001) trilayer structure, by means of X-ray photoemission electron microscopy (XPEEM) and spin-polarised low-energy electron microscopy (SPLEEM). Two different magnetic couplings between the Fe layers are observed depending on the NiO thickness being greater or smaller than a critical value. Very small magnetic domains and domain walls are observed in the top Fe layer. They are dramatically smaller than those observed in the Fe substrate, and have a convoluted topology. Furthermore they seem to be unstable with respect to an applied magnetic field for any NiO thickness except that corresponding to the transition between the different coupling regimes. The phenomenology of such magnetic nano-structures and the dependence of the magnetic behaviour of the layered structure on the NiO spacer thickness are discussed on the basis of the experimental results and of state-of-the-art theoretical models.
Brambilla, A;  Biagioni, P;  Rougemaille, N;  Schmid, A K;  Lanzara, A;  Duo, L;  Ciccacci, F;  Finazzi, M 
- Dipartimento di Fisica-Politecnico di Milano, P.za Leonardo da Vinci 32, 20133 Milan (Italy)
- National Center for Electron Microscopy, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Berkeley, CA 94720 (United States)
- Department of Physics, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720 (United States)