Thin film stress has been measured in (Ni66Fe16Co18 25 Å/Ag 50 Å) multilayer thin films that exhibit annealing-induced giant magnetoresistance (GMR) known as ‘discontinuous’ GMR1. This GMR results when NiFeCo layers are broken up into discontinuous ferromagnetic islands or platelets by immiscible Ag atom grain boundary diffusion normal to the film plane. As-deposited films display no GMR and are in compression. An MR value of 5 % with a relatively sharp profile can be induced in a ten bilayer sample annealed at 400°C for 15 min. Annealing generally results in a decrease in the as-deposited compressive stress and can result in tensile stress at high enough temperatures. Interestingly, at the annealing temperatures corresponding to the maximum induced GMR, there is a plateau in the otherwise monotonic decrease in compressive stress with increasing temperature.
Stress-temperature plots reveal a plateau in the stress value during the heating of a ten bilayer sample due to plastic deformation in the film via densification. Isothermal stress-time plots done on a single sample show increasing compressive stress relief after each successively higher temperature anneal. The stress was also measured in a single bilayer film with the same volume of film as in a ten bilayer sample but far fewer interfaces. High and low angle x-ray diffraction (HXRD, LXRD) was used to reveal the structural evolution with annealing. Magnetic (M-H) hysteresis measurements revealed increasing coercivity and decreasing induced as-deposited in-plane magnetic uniaxial anisotropy with annealing temperature.