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The annealing effect on memory state stability and interlayer coupling in perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions with ultrathin MgO barrier

: Lv, Hua; Fidalgo, João; Leitão, Diana C.; Silva, Ana V.; Kämpfe, Thomas; Riedel, Stefan; Langer, Juergen; Wrona, Jerzy; Ocker, Berthold; Freitas, Paolo P.; Cardoso, Susana


Journal of magnetism and magnetic materials 477 (2019), S.142-146
ISSN: 0304-8853
Fraunhofer IPMS ()

Perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions (p-MTJs) attract great interest because of their excellent performance in spin-transfer-torque magnetic random access memories (STT-MRAMs). The annealing process is critical to achieve the required structural and magnetic properties, therefore obtaining high perpendicular tunneling magnetoresistance (p-TMR) and lower switching current. In this work, the CoFeB/MgO/CoFeB-based p-TMR stack was prepared and a high p-TMR value of 155.9% was obtained from CIPT. The p-MTJs were patterned with pillar sizes ranging from 50 nm to 1000 nm and were annealed upon different annealing temperatures (TA) of 300 and 340 °C. The resistance at parallel (RP) and antiparallel (RAP) state in p-MTJs was obtained upon the application of a ±30 mT perpendicular magnetic field, where the angle of magnetization between storage and reference layer at memory state, θP and θAP, were derived from the P and AP resistance ratios with and without magnetic field. The condition θP = θAP of about 63.5° was found in as-deposited samples, indicating a ferromagnetic interlayer coupling between storage and reference layers, where θP = 0° and θAP = 180° at TA = 300 °C and 340 °C demonstrate a stable memory state. The stability of the resistance state was modeled by considering the evolution of effective perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (Keff) and interlayer coupling constant (J), showing a method to evaluate the ratio of Keff/J via the memory state resistance characterization, where the Keff/J of about −1.26 was obtained in our as-deposited samples. Our study assesses the effect of TA on the θP and θAP and supplies the method to enhance the stability through the optimization of perpendicular magnetic anisotropy and interlayer coupling, so to better control the performance of p-MTJ-based STT-MRAMs.