We developed a method to engineer the surface topography of Nb underlayers using surface oxidation followed by low-energy Ar ion milling to improve the properties of subsequently deposited magnetic Ni80Fe20 (Permalloy) thin films. They had reduced coercivity Hc, increased remanent squareness, and improved magnetic anisotropy due to the reduced roughness of the Nb underlayer, especially at high spatial frequency (>25 μm-1). Typical results for 2.4 nm thick Ni80Fe20 films deposited on 100 nm thick Nb were an easy-axis coercivity Hce = 3.7 Oe (compared to 6 Oe without underlayer smoothing), a hard-axis Hch = 1.5 Oe (5.5 Oe without smoothing), an easy-axis remanent squareness (ratio of remanent and saturation magnetizations) Sqe = 0.92, a hard-axis remanent squareness Sqh = 0.25, and a uniaxial anisotropy Hk = 6.0 Oe, all measured at a temperature of 10 K. This ion-smoothing technique could potentially be used to improve the properties of magnetic layers in superconducting memory and other magnetoelectronic devices that utilize a thick underlayer that serves as an electrical contact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8115303
JournalIEEE Magnetics Letters
StatePublished - Nov 18 2017


  • Magnetic films
  • Magnetic measurements
  • Soft magnetic materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials


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