We report on the effect of varied capping layers on the formation of thin film MnBi, and the associated magnetic and crystalline properties for use in magnetic memory. MnBi thin films with a capping layer of either Ta, SiO2, Cr, or Au were grown, and it was observed that the magnetic properties vary significantly depending on the capping layer. Continuous 20 nm MnBi thin films capped with Ta and SiO2 show ferromagnetism with large perpendicular magnetocrystalline anisotropy, however, films capped with Cr and Au show no ferromagnetic behavior. In this work, MnBi thin films have been characterized utilizing magnetization vs. field, X-ray diffraction, cross-section transmission electron microscopy, and optical microscopy. We show that the capping layer plays a significant role in the formation of the low temperature phase MnBi structure and propose that the underlying cause is due to a surface energy difference for the MnBi//Au and MnBi//Cr interface, which allows for Mn oxidation, and prevents the formation of the low temperature phase. This work demonstrates that continuous ultra-thin film MnBi can achieve large magnetocrystalline anisotropy and theoretical magnetization. We also show that film delamination causes a significant variation in the magnetic performance, and leads to a large surface roughness.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by C-SPIN, one of the six STARnet program research centers, the University of Minnesota Distinguished Doctoral Fellowship, and the Robert Hartmann Endowed Chair Professorship. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from the NSF through the MRSEC program.
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