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Unexpectedly long-range effects in advanced magnetic devices
Date:7/1/2009

netoresistance read head, for example, this pinned layer serves as a reference direction that the sensor uses in detecting changing field directions on the disk that it is "reading.".

Researchers have long understood this pinning effect to be a short-range phenomenon. The influence of the antiferromagnetic layer is felt only a few tens of nanometers down into the ferromagnetic layerverticallly. But what about sideways? To find out, the NIST/ISSP team started with a thin ferromagnetic film covering a silicon wafer and then added on top a grid of antiferromagnetic strips about 10 nanometers thick and 10 micrometers wide, separated by gaps of about 100 micrometers. Using an instrument that provided real-time images of the magnetization within grid the structure, the team watched the grid structure as they increased and decreased the magnetic field surrounding it.

What they found surprised them.

As expected, the ferromagnetic material directly under the grid lines showed the pinning effect, but, quite unexpectedly, so did the uncovered material in regions between the grid lines far removed from the antiferromagnetic material. "This pinning effect extends for maybe tens of nanometers down into the ferromagnet right underneath," explains Shull, "so you might expect that there could be some residual effect maybe tens of nanometers away from it to the sides. But you wouldn't expect it to extend 10 micrometers awaythat's 10 thousand nanometers." In fact, the effect extends to regions 50 micrometers away from the closest antiferromagnetic strip, at least 1,000 times further than was previously known to be possible.

The ramifications, says Shull, are that engineers planning to build dense arrays of these structures onto a chip for high-performance memory or sensor devices will find interesting new scientific issues for investigation in optimizing how closely they can be packed without interfering with each other.


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Contact: Michael Baum
michael.baum@nist.gov
301-975-2763
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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