Journal article Open Access

Ion irradiation-induced easy-cone anisotropy in double-MgO free layers for perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions

B. M. S. Teixeira; A. A. Timopheev; N. F. F. Caçoilo; S. Auffret; R. C. Sousa; B. Dieny; E. Alves; N. A. Sobolev

We have used the ferromagnetic resonance in the X-band (9.37 GHz) to investigate the effect of 400 keV Ar+ irradiation on the perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) and Gilbert damping parameter, α, of double-MgO free layers designed for application in perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions. The samples comprised a MgO/Fe72Co8B20/X(0.2 nm)/Fe72Co8B20/MgO layer stack, where X stands for an ultrathin Ta or W spacer. Samples with two different total FeCoB layer thicknesses, tFCB = 3.0 nm and tFCB = 2.6 nm, were irradiated with ion fluences ranging from 1012 cm−2 to 1016 cm−2. The effective first-order PMA field, BK1, decreased nearly linearly with the logarithm of the fluence for both FeCoB thicknesses and spacer elements. The decrease in BK1, which is likely caused by an ion-induced intermixing at the FeCoB/MgO interfaces, resulted in a reorientation of the magnetization of the free layers with tFCB = 2.6 nm, initially exhibiting a perpendicular easy-axis anisotropy. For intermediate fluences, 1013 cm−2 and 1014 cm−2, easy-cone states with different cone angles could be induced in the free layer with a W spacer. Importantly, no corresponding increase in the Gilbert damping was observed. This study shows that ion irradiation can be used to tune the easy-cone anisotropy in perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions, which is interesting for spintronic applications such as spin-torque magnetic memory devices, oscillators, and sensors.

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