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Structural, magnetic, and transport studies have been performed on perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions (pMTJ) with Mo as the buffer and capping layers. After annealing samples at 300'°C and higher, consistently better performance was obtained compared to that of conventional pMTJs with Ta layers. Large tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) and perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) values were retained in a wide range of samples with Mo layers after annealing for 2 h at 400'°C, in sharp contrast to the junctions with Ta layers, in which superparamagnetic behavior with nearly vanishing magnetoresistance was observed. As a result of the greatly improved thermal stability, TMR as high as 162% was obtained in junctions containing Mo layers. These results highlight the importance of the heavy-metal layers adjacent to CoFeB electrodes for achieving larger TMR, stronger PMA, and higher thermal stability in pMTJs.
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