Chemistry-dependent magnetic properties at the FeNi oxide–metal interface†
Fe and Ni compounds and their oxides offer stoichiometry-dependent magnetic properties, owing to an extremely rich variety of crystallographic phases and a complex phase diagram. They foster the fabrication of oxide/metal magnetic junctions with tunable coupling, thus avoiding the usage of costly materials such as Co and rare-earth elements. Along these lines, here, spectro-microscopy is employed to study the oxidation of FeNi alloy ultrathin films featuring laterally separated fcc and bcc phases. Under mild oxidation conditions at T < 250 °C, Fe segregates to the surface forming a thin superficial Fe-oxide layer, which eventually evolves to Fe3O4 supported on an interfacial FeNi oxide with a spinel structure. Notably, the bcc FeNi oxidizes faster than the fcc one, while the fcc/bcc phase boundary is found to be the most reactive surface region. The magnetic coupling and domain morphology of the oxide–metal heterostack, characterized by XMCD-PEEM and CEMS, are shown to depend on the crystallographic structure of the alloy film. In particular, the Fe-oxide layer on top of the fcc regions exhibits micron-sized uniform magnetic domains antiferromagnetically coupled to the metal support. In contrast, the corresponding oxide on the bcc regions displays fragmented magnetic domains at a length scale of about 100 nm, with ferromagnetic coupling to the underlying FeNi metal support. Our study identifies novel principles for engineering the magnetic coupling through the interface structure and chemistry, with potential applications in sustainable spintronics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Open Access Articles