With the highest magnetocrystalline anisotropy constant (Ku) among practical magnetic materials, SmCo5 could be a very attractive candidate for future high areal density magnetic recording. However, its corrosion resistance is always a concern in recording media applications. In this paper, the chemical stability and microstructures of highly (0001) textured Sm(CoCu)5 thin films with and without a 3 nm Ta capping layer were reported. For Sm(CoCu)5 thin films without a capping layer, the coercivity decreases significantly (from 8kOe to 1kOe) within one month. Sm(CoCu)5 thin films capped with a thin Ta layer (3 nm) behave differently. Even exposed to a laboratory environment (25 °C) over 3 years, the Ta-capped Sm(CoCu)5 thin films are stable in terms of structural and magnetic properties, i.e., there were no changes in X-ray diffraction peaks and vibrating sample magnetometer hysteresis loops. Microstructure of Ta-capped Sm(CoCu)5 thin films showed that Sm(CoCu)5 formed a domelike particle assembly structure on a smooth Ru underlayer and were well covered by partially oxidized Ta capping layer, as shown by TEM cross-section micrographs. Accelerated corrosion treatment (130 C, 95 relative humidity, 6 h) was performed on Ta-capped Sm(CoCu)5 thin films. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) results showed that no Co was detected on the sample surface before the corrosion treatment, but strong XPS signals of CoOx and Co(OH)x were observed after treatment. Therefore, none of our Sm(CoCu)5 thin films can pass the accelerated corrosion test. Hcp-phased CoPt-alloys are proposed as better capping materials for Sm(CoCu)5 thin films in future high-density magnetic recording applications.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Dr. Yukiko Kubota, Dr. Ganping Ju, and Dr. Bin Lu for useful discussions and the Seagate Technology and Information Storage Industry Consortium Extremely High Density Recording (EHDR) Program for its partial support of this work. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, a member of the NSF-funded Materials Research Facilities Network (www.mrfn.org) via the NSF MRSEC program under award number DMR-0819885.