In this talk I will outline two major efforts in my lab relating to magnetism: exchange bias, a subject that has occupied me for the past fifteen years, and protein-based single-electron transistors, which my group has studied during the past three years.
Exchange bias is the interaction at the interface between an antiferromagnetic material and a ferromagnetic thin film or nanoparticle which causes the center of the ferromagnetic hysteresis loop to shift away from zero field, effectively resulting in a unidirectional anisotropy. Despite the fact that this effect was discovered approximately fifty years ago, and that it is used in magnetic sensors found in hard drives, the fundamental mechanism responsible for this interaction was poorly understood until recently. Important advances using ideal antiferromagnets (antiferromagnets with well understood and relatively simple properties) have been made during the past few years to assess or validate theories that explain exchange bias. My group has used transition metal difluoride epitaxial thin films, which allow us to vary the magnetic disorder and anisotropy of the antiferromagnet in a controlled manner. Using traditional magnetometry techniques, as well as more sophisticated experiments sensitive to the depth profile of the magnetization, such as x-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) and polarized neutron reflectivity (PNR), have allowed us to understand the interface processes responsible for the effect. I will discuss the important results from these experiments, including 1) the effects of short range order at the surface of the antiferromagnet above its Neel temperature; 2) the observation of pinned and unpinned magnetic moments at the ferromagnet/antiferromagnet interface; and 3) the effects of the magnetic anisotropy of the antiferromagnet on the temperature dependence of the exchange bias and the possibility of reversing the effect at low temperatures.
During the last segment of the talk, I will also summarize our efforts in fabricating a heme-based single electron transistor (SET). I will describe the basic theory behind SET physics and our procedures for fabricating a device using myoglobin. I will then explain why our data are consistent with SET behavior resulting from resonance tunneling from the Fe-containing heme group in myoglobin.