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Probing vertically graded anisotropy in FePtCu films

Journal article
Authors Randy K. Dumas
Yeyu Fang
B. J. Kirby
Chaolin Zha
Valentina Bonanni
Josep Nogués
Johan Åkerman
Published in Physical Review B
Volume 84
Pages 054434
ISSN 1098-0121
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Physics (GU)
Pages 054434
Language en
Keywords magnetism, spintronics, graded materials
Subject categories Magnetism, Other engineering physics


Field-dependent polarized neutron reflectivity (PNR) and magnetometry are employed to study the magnetic properties of compositionally uniform and graded FePtCu films as a function of annealing temperature (TA). The PNR results are able to directly probe the compositional and anisotropy variations through the film thickness. Further details about how the reversal mechanisms evolve are then elucidated by using a first-order reversal curve technique. The reversal of the graded sample annealed at 300 °C occurs by an initial rapid switching of the dominant soft A1 phase toward the surface of the film, followed by the gradual reversal of the residual hard phase components toward the bottom. This indicates that the anisotropy gradient is not well established at this low TA. A fundamentally different mechanism is found after annealing at 400 °C, where the rapid switching of the entire film is preceded by a gradual reversal of the soft layers. This suggests that the anisotropy gradient has become better established through the film thickness. The field-dependent PNR measurements confirm the existence of an anisotropy gradient, where the lower (higher) anisotropy portions are now toward the bottom (top) of the film because of the Cu compositional gradient. However, after annealing at 500 °C, a single rapid reversal is found, indicating the formation of a uniform hard film. In this case, PNR demonstrates a more uniform magnetic depth profile that is consistent with a uniform reference sample, suggesting significant interdiffusion of the Cu is degrading the compositional and induced anisotropy gradient at this elevated TA.

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