The effect of Fe-coverage on the structure, morphology and magnetic properties of α-FeSi2 nanoislands

J. K. Tripathi*, M. Garbrecht, W. D. Kaplan, G. Markovich, I. Goldfarb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-assembled α-FeSi2 nanoislands were formed using solid-phase epitaxy of low (∼1.2 ML) and high (∼21 ML) Fe coverages onto vicinal Si(111) surfaces followed by thermal annealing. At a resulting low Fe-covered Si(111) surface, we observed in situ, by real-time scanning tunneling microscopy and surface electron diffraction, the entire sequence of Fe-silicide formation and transformation from the initially two-dimensional (2 × 2)-reconstructed layer at 300 °C into (2 × 2)-reconstructed nanoislands decorating the vicinal step-bunch edges in a self-ordered fashion at higher temperatures. In contrast, the silicide nanoislands at a high Fe-covered surface were noticeably larger, more three-dimensional, and randomly distributed all over the surface. Ex situ x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy indicated the formation of an α-FeSi2 island phase, in an α-FeSi2{112} ∥ Si{111} orientation. Superconducting quantum interference device magnetometry showed considerable superparamagnetism, with ∼1.9 μB/Fe atom at 4 K for the low Fe-coverage, indicating stronger ferromagnetic coupling of individual magnetic moments, as compared to high Fe-coverage, where the calculated moments were only ∼0.8 μB/Fe atom. Such anomalous magnetic behavior, particularly for the low Fe-coverage case, is radically different from the non-magnetic bulk α-FeSi2 phase, and may open new pathways to high-density magnetic memory storage devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number495603
Issue number49
StatePublished - 14 Dec 2012


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