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Direct laser interference patterning of magnetic thin films

Aliekber Aktag, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Recently, patterned magnetic thin films have attracted much attention for a variety of applications such as high density magnetic recording, magnetoresistive sensing, and magnetic random access memories. In the case of magnetic recording, one scheme calls for the films to be patterned into single domain “dots”, where every dot represents a thermally stable bit. ^ In this thesis, we extended a technique called direct laser interference patterning (DLIP), originally developed by Polushkin and co-workers, to pattern and locally modify the materials properties of magnetic thin films. In this technique, a high-intensity Nd:YAG pulse laser beam was split into two, three, or four beams, which are then recombined to interfere on a sample surface. The interference intensity maxima can modify the local materials properties of the film through local “annealing” or, more drastically, by ablation. ^ We carried out some preliminary investigations of the DLIP process in several films including co-sputtered Co-C, amorphous Dy/Co:SiO2 multilayers, and Co/SiO2 multilayers in order to refine our techniques. We successfully produced regular arrays of lines, dots, or antidots formed by ablation of the thin film. The preliminary studies also showed that, in the regime of more modest pulse energies, it is possible to modify the magnetic properties of the films without noticeably changing the film topography. We then prepared perpendicular magnetic anisotropy Co/Pt multilayers with a SiO x passivation layer and applied DLIP at fairly modest intensities to pattern the film. We then studied the structural and magnetic changes that occurred in some detail. X-ray diffraction scans showed the Co/Pt:SiO x multilayer films to be nanocrystalline before and after patterning. Atomic force microscopy images showed no evidence for topographic changes of the Co/Pt:SiOx during patterning. In contrast, magnetic force microscopy showed regular periodic dot arrays, indicating that the local magnetic properties were significantly affected by the patterning process. Alternating-gradient-force magnetometry and magneto-optic measurements also showed that the magnetic properties were markedly changed by the DLIP process. Our results offer strong evidence that local heating causes the moments to change from perpendicular to in-plane, with the consequent formation of an “anisotropy lattice”: dots of in-plane magnetization within a matrix of perpendicular magnetization. ^ We also carried out some optical interference calculations to predict the light intensity distributions for two, three, and four interfering beams of light. We found that the patterns could be controlled by varying the angles of incidence, the polarizations of the beams, and the wavelength and intensity of the beams, and that a wide variety of patterns are possible. The predicted patterns were in quite good agreement with those observed experimentally. ^

Subject Area

Physics, Condensed Matter

Recommended Citation

Aktag, Aliekber, "Direct laser interference patterning of magnetic thin films" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3131532.