The research of this dissertation has involved the nanoscale quantitative characterization of patterned magnetic nanostructures and devices using off-axis electron holography and Lorentz microscopy. The investigation focused on different materials of interest, including monolayer Co nanorings, multilayer Co/Cu/Py (Permalloy, Ni81Fe19) spin-valve nanorings, and notched Py nanowires, which were fabricated via a standard electron-beam lithography (EBL) and lift-off process. Magnetization configurations and reversal processes of Co nanorings, with and without slots, were observed. Vortex-controlled switching behavior with stepped hysteresis loops was identified, with clearly defined onion states, vortex states, flux-closure (FC) states, and Omega states. Two distinct switching mechanisms for the slotted nanorings, depending on applied field directions relative to the slot orientations, were attributed to the vortex chirality and shape anisotropy. Micromagnetic simulations were in good agreement with electron holography observations of the Co nanorings, also confirming the switching field of 700-800 Oe. Co/Cu/Py spin-valve slotted nanorings exhibited different remanent states and switching behavior as a function of the different directions of the applied field relative to the slots. At remanent state, the magnetizations of Co and Py layers were preferentially aligned in antiparallel coupled configuration, with predominant configurations in FC or onion states. Two-step and three-step hysteresis loops were quantitatively determined for nanorings with slots perpendicular, or parallel to the applied field direction, respectively, due to the intrinsic coercivity difference and interlayer magnetic coupling between Co and Py layers. The field to reverse both layers was on the order of ~800 Oe. Domain-wall (DW) motion within Py nanowires (NWs) driven by an in situ magnetic field was visualized and quantified. Different aspects of DW behavior, including nucleation, injection, pinning, depinning, relaxation, and annihilation, occurred depending on applied field strength. A unique asymmetrical DW pinning behavior was recognized, depending on DW chirality relative to the sense of rotation around the notch. The transverse DWs relaxed into vortex DWs, followed by annihilation in a reversed field, which was in agreement with micromagnetic simulations. Overall, the success of these studies demonstrated the capability of off-axis electron holography to provide valuable insights for understanding magnetic behavior on the nanoscale.
- Quantitative phase imaging of magnetic nanostructures using off-axis electron holography