Complicated domain configurations generated during the magnetization reversal of Permalloy elements patterned in various shapes are the results of a surprisingly few switching mechanisms. By comparing the results from micromagnetic simulations with the experimentally observed switching events imaged by Lorentz microscopy, we found that nucleation and annihilation of vortices and vortex/antivortex pairs, and the propagation of Neel and cross-tie walls are common mechanisms for magnetization reversal in Permalloy elements with dimensions favorable to domain formation. In addition, for a given element, different mechanism combination(s) may transpire, depending on the sweep rate in the externally applied field. This is because energy maxima and minima are generally field dependent and that different field sweep rate alters the time allotted for thermally assisted transition between states. (C) 2007 American Institute of Physics.
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