X-ray magnetic circular dichroism

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XMCD spectrum of Iron

X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) is a difference spectrum of two X-ray absorption spectra (XAS) taken in a magnetic field, one taken with left circularly polarized light, and one with right circularly polarized light. By closely analyzing the difference in the XMCD spectrum, information can be obtained on the magnetic properties of the atom, such as its spin and orbital magnetic moment.

This simple diagram illustrates the general idea of X-ray magnetic circular dichroism. It shows the electronic transitions for 2p->3d (L-edge) absorption. It is not to scale.

In the case of transition metals such as iron, cobalt, and nickel, the absorption spectra for XMCD are usually measured at the L-edge. This corresponds to the process in the iron case: with iron, a 2p electron is excited to a 3d state by an X-ray of about 700 eV. Because the 3d electron states are the origin of the magnetic properties of the elements, the spectra contain information on the magnetic properties.

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