Complete reversal of the atomic unquenched orbital moment by a single electron

Rasa Rejali, David Coffey, Jeremie Gobeil, Jhon W. González, Fernando Delgado, Alexander F. Otte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The orbital angular moment of magnetic atoms adsorbed on surfaces is often quenched as a result of an anisotropic crystal field. Due to spin-orbit coupling, what remains of the orbital moment typically delineates the orientation of the electron spin. These two effects limit the scope of information processing based on these atoms to essentially only one magnetic degree of freedom: the spin. In this work, we gain independent access to both the spin and orbital degrees of freedom of a single atom, inciting and probing excitations of each moment. By coordinating a single Fe atom atop the nitrogen site of the Cu2N lattice, we realize a single-atom system with a large zero-field splitting—the largest reported for Fe atoms on surfaces—and an unquenched uniaxial orbital moment that closely approaches the free-atom value. We demonstrate a full reversal of the orbital moment through a single-electron tunneling event between the tip and Fe atom, a process that is mediated by a charged virtual state and leaves the spin unchanged. These results, which we corroborate using density functional theory and first-principles multiplet calculations, demonstrate independent control over the spin and orbital degrees of freedom in a single-atom system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
Number of pages7
Journalnpj Quantum Materials
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Complete reversal of the atomic unquenched orbital moment by a single electron'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this