Exploring electron vortex beams (VORTEX)

In this project I will exploit new possibilities opened up by the recent successful demonstration of our ability to create electron vortex beams in a transmission electron microscope. Electron vortex beams carry a helical phase and angular momentum around their propagation axis. They form the counterpart of optical vortex beams that were invented almost 20 years ago and have led to many exciting new applications in optics.

In preliminary experiments with electron vortices I have demonstrated (Verbeeck et al. Nature, 467,301 (2010)) their usefulness for magnetic state mapping. This property makes them very desirable for solid state physics and materials science since no other tool exists that can map the local magnetization inside materials with atomic scale resolution.

We aim to develop atomic resolution magnetic state mapping and apply it to gain insight in spintronics devices as well as in topological insulators. We will follow two routes to this end, one using the combination of electron vortex beams and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) and another making use of the Aharanov Bohm effect in elastic scattering. Preliminary experiments proof that both routes are feasible and a wealth of interesting physics is ready to be explored. We will also explore the potential of electron vortex beams to manipulate nanoparticles and transfer angular momentum from the electron beam to these particles.

This would open up the road to assemble and create nanoscale devices and to study the fundamental laws that govern the interaction between vortex beams and particles with different physical properties. I believe that this highly creative and innovative idea, combined with access to a state of the art transmission electron microscope and a young PI with a proven track record is combined into a project proposal entirely in the spirit of the ERC starting grants.