Dissertation: Amorphous Magnetic Materials: A Versatile Foundation for Tomorrow's Applications

  • Date:
  • Location: Zoom: https://uu-se.zoom.us/j/66886752482
  • Doctoral student: Sebastian George
  • Contact person: Sebastian George
  • Disputation

Amorphous magnetic materials exhibit a number of key differentiating properties with respect to crystalline magnets. In some cases, the differences may simply be in the values of macroscopic properties such as saturation magnetization, coercivity, Curie temperature, and electrical conductivity. Other cases are more fundamental, such as the possibility for many amorphous alloys to be produced with nearly arbitrary composition, something that is not always possible in crystal structures that may only be stable for certain specific compositions.

Fundamentally, these properties arise due to the disordered arrangement of atoms in amorphous materials. However, this structure is challenging to probe and characterize, either experimentally or theoretically. A significant contribution of this thesis is the development of a new approach for studying the local atomic structure of amorphous materials, specifically amorphous SmCo and FeZr alloys. The strategy combines extended x-ray absorption spectroscopy (EXAFS) measurements with stochastic quenching (SQ) simulations in a way that provides more information than either method can offer alone. Additionally, this approach offers the potential for identifying any shortcomings in the theoretical models obtained via SQ.

Having an accurate model of the atomic arrangement is not, however, a prerequisite for developing technical applications of amorphous magnetic materials. For that, it is sufficient to quantify those macroscopic properties that are relevant for a given application. Such is the value of the magnetic characterization of amorphous TbCo and CoFeZr alloy thin films presented here. Both investigations used methods such as vibrating sample magnetometry (VSM) and magneto-optic Kerr effect (MOKE) measurements to highlight the high tunability of the magnetic properties in these materials, which can be achieved simply by changing the chemical composition.

The final portion of this thesis examines what can be achieved by combining amorphous SmCo and TbCo alloys together in bilayer structures. This is a step away from the alloy characterization studies, as it focuses on how new properties can be realized when multiple materials are brought together. MOKE measurements were used to identify the conditions under which the bilayers spontaneously become magnetized parallel to the film plane versus when the TbCo magnetization begins to tilt out of the plane. Further investigation combining x-ray circular magnetic dichroism (XMCD) measurements and micromagnetic simulations provided a depth-resolved model of the magnetization throughout the bilayers in the presence of a broad range of external field strengths and directions. These models also showed that the local magnetization just above and just below the SmCo/TbCo interface can be aligned either parallel or antiparallel to one another simply by varying the TbCo composition. This discovery offers a novel method for controlling the magnetic behavior in these materials, and may well be useful for all-optical switching or spintronics applications where amorphous TbCo alloys have already drawn attention.