Using the time-resolved magneto-optical Kerr effect method, helicity-dependent all-optical magnetization switching (HD-AOS) is observed in ferrimagnetic TbFeCo films. Our results reveal the individual roles of the thermal and nonthermal effects after a single circularly polarized laser pulse. The evolution of this ultrafast switching occurs over different time scales, and a defined magnetization reversal time of 460 fs is shown—the fastest ever observed. Micromagnetic simulations based on a single macro-spin model, taking into account both heating and the inverse Faraday effect, are performed which reproduce HD-AOS demonstrating a linear path for magnetization reversal.

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