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Detection of Pinholes in Ultrathin Films by Magnetic Coupling

  • W. F. Egelhoff (a1), L. Gan (a1), P. J. Chen (a1), C. J. Powell (a1), R. D. Mcmichael (a1), R. A. Fry (a1), G. Beach (a2), D. Martien (a2) and A. E. Berkowitz (a2)...

Abstract

When two magnetic films are separated by a nonmagnetic film, pinholes in the nonmagnetic film can allow direct contact and, thereby, direct magnetic exchange coupling between the two magnetic films. We have studied this coupling by having one of the magnetic films pinned and leaving the other free to switch at low field. The pinning is accomplished with test structures based on exchange bias and synthetic antiferromagnetic layers. Since the pinning strength increases sharply at low temperatures but orange-peel coupling does not, low-temperature (77 K) measurements appear to identify whether an observed coupling arises primarily from magnetic coupling through pinholes or primarily from orange-peel roughness. Our measurements appear to indicate that the observed coupling arises primarily from magnetic coupling through pinholes for Cu films less than 2.1 nm thick and for Al2O3films less than 0.6 nm thick but primarily from roughness-induced (orange-peel) magnetostatic coupling for larger thicknesses.

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