Thermally active nanoparticle clusters enslaved by engineered domain wall traps
The stable assembly of fluctuating nanoparticle clusters on a surface represents a technological challenge of widespread interest for both fundamental and applied research. Here we demonstrate a technique to stably confine in two dimensions clusters of interacting nanoparticles via size-tunable, virtual magnetic traps. We use cylindrical Bloch walls arranged to form a triangular lattice of ferromagnetic domains within an epitaxially grown ferrite garnet film. At each domain, the magnetic stray field generates an effective harmonic potential with a field tunable stiffness. The experiments are combined with theory to show that the magnetic confinement is effectively harmonic and pairwise interactions are of dipolar nature, leading to central, strictly repulsive forces. For clusters of magnetic nanoparticles, the stationary collective states arise from the competition between repulsion, confinement and the tendency to fill the central potential well. Using a numerical simulation model as a quantitative map between the experiments and theory we explore the field-induced crystallization process for larger clusters and unveil the existence of three different dynamical regimes. The present method provides a model platform for investigations of the collective phenomena emerging when strongly confined nanoparticle clusters are forced to move in an idealized, harmonic-like potential.
Open Access Status
This publication may be available as open access
FP7 Ideas: European Research Council