Science Advances, Vol. 3, Nr. 3, S. e1602094. (2017)
The evolution of the electronic band structure of the simple ferromagnets Fe, Co, and Ni during their well-known ferromagnetic-paramagnetic phase transition has been under debate for decades, with no clear and even contradicting experimental observations so far. Using time- and spin-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy, we can make a movie on how the electronic properties change in real time after excitation with an ultrashort laser pulse. This allows us to monitor large transient changes in the spin-resolved electronic band structure of cobalt for the first time. We show that the loss of magnetization is not only found around the Fermi level, where the states are affected by the laser excitation, but also reaches much deeper into the electronic bands. We find that the ferromagnetic-paramagnetic phase transition cannot be explained by a loss of the exchange splitting of the spin-polarized bands but instead shows rapid band mirroring after the excitation, which is a clear signature of extremely efficient ultrafast magnon generation. Our result helps to understand band structure formation in these seemingly simple ferromagnetic systems and gives first clear evidence of the transient processes relevant to femtosecond demagnetization.