Interface alloying of ultra-thin sputter-deposited Co2MnSi films as a source of perpendicular magnetic anisotropy

Adham Basha, Huarui Fu, George Levi, Gregory Leitus, Andras Kovács, Caiyin You, Amit Kohn

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Novel spin-electronic devices require electrodes that inject electrons with both high spin-polarization and perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA). Several full-Heusler compounds are expected to be half-metallic ferromagnets, e.g. chemically-ordered L21 or B2 Co2MnSi. However, most cubic full-Heusler alloys have small magneto-crystalline anisotropy meaning that PMA is difficult to achieve in thin film geometries of devices. Addressing this limitation, Butler et al. (2014) calculate PMA and full spin-polarization in ultra-thin (2–3 nm) chemically-ordered Co2MnSi with an epitaxial coherent interface to rock-salt MgO (0 0 1). Experimentally, PMA in sputter-deposited ultra-thin films with full-Heusler compositions was reported though with adjacent layers of Pd or Pt. We investigate structural origins of such PMA using a test case of ultra-thin Co2MnSi films prepared by magnetron sputter-deposition, adjacent to a MgO layer to represent a tunneling barrier, and to a Pd buffer layer. We measure PMA, with an energy density of 7.8 ± 1.8 Merg/cc at 5 K, when a Pd layer is adjacent to Co2MnSi, following annealing in a narrow temperature range, around 350 °C. This ferromagnetism originates from nanometer scale regions, below 5 nm in size, having a relatively low saturation magnetization, 550 ± 50 emu/cc at low temperatures. Following thermal annealing, significant compositional intermixing between Co2MnSi films and adjacent layers, Co with Pd and Mn with MgO, was measured by electron energy-loss and angle resolved X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies. Aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy shows that Co2MnSi does not crystallize while at the interface with Pd, nanometer-scale crystallites of FCC solid solution CoPd with {1 1 1} texture are identified. We conclude that these Pd rich CoPd crystallites, characterized by large magnetostriction, are a source for PMA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number165367
JournalJournal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Heusler alloys
  • Perpendicular magnetic anisotropy
  • Transmission electron microscopy
  • Ultra-thin films


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