Soft magnetic alloys play a significant role for magnetic recording applications and highly sensitivity magnetic field sensors. In order to sustain the magnetic areal density growth, development of new synthesis techniques and materials is necessary. In this work, the effect of oxygen incorporation during electrodeposition of CoFe alloys on magnetic properties, magnetoresistance and structural properties has been studied. Understanding the magnetic properties often required knowledge of oxygen distribution and structural properties of the grown films. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was a powerful tool in this study to correlate the oxygen-distribution nanostructure to the magnetic properties of deposited films. Off-axis electron holography in TEM was used to measure magnetic domain wall width in the deposited films. Elemental depth profiles of Fe, Co, O were investigated by secondary ion mass spectroscopy (SIMS). Magnetic properties have been determined by superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) measurements. Oxygen content in the CoFe deposited films was controlled by electrolyte composition. Films were deposited on Si 100 substrates and on other substrates such as Cu and Al. However, a good film quality was achieved on Si substrate. Electron energy loss and x-ray spectroscopies showed that the low oxygen films contained intragranular Fe2+ oxide (FeO) particles and that the high oxygen films contained intergranular Fe3+ (Fe2O3) along grain boundaries. The films with oxide present at the grain boundary had significantly increased coercivity, magnetoresistance and reduced saturation magnetization relative to the lower oxygen content films with intragranular oxide. The differences in magnetic properties between low oxygen and high oxygen concentration films were attributed to stronger mobile domain wall interactions with the grain boundary oxide layers. The very high magnetoresistance values were achieved for magnetic devices with nanocontact dimension < 100 nm and oxide incorporation in this nanoconfined geometry. The content of oxide phase in nanocontact was controlled by concentration of the Fe3+ ions in the electrodeposition solution. Magnetic device integrity was improved by varying amount of additive into plating solution. These results indicated that electrodeposited CoFe nanocontact is a novel class of materials with large application for magnetic field sensors.
- Oxygen nanodistributions in cobalt-iron electrodeposited thin films: some effect on magnetic properties, high resolution analytical electron microscopy