Remote plasma sputtering (RPS) offers a high degree of control over the sputtering parameters used to deposit thin metallic films and has demonstrated a capability to control the media grain size distribution. Narrow grain size distributions remain a key requirement for future magnetic media. Here we report a comprehensive magnetometry, X-Ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy study of how RPS affects the grain size distribution of continuous, non-segregated L10 FePt thin films. These provide a model medium for heat-assisted magnetic recording and more generally for spintronic devices such as magnetoresistive random access memory and spin torque oscillators, where very high perpendicular magnetocrystalline anisotropy is required. Varying the target DC bias voltage, which in RPS can be tuned independently of the plasma generation, produces no meaningful, statistical change in average grain size, 6.5 ± 0.1 nm, for as-deposited, disordered FePt. Annealing at 800°C creates the well-ordered L10 phase but results in an increased average grain size of 8.3 - 13.6nm, and a significantly wider grain size distribution of 6.4 - 8.5nm. These results show that whilst RPS is capable of producing well-ordered L10 FePt thin films, it does not offer an advantage in controlling the grain size of FePt, as reported in other thin film systems.
- thin films
- remote plasma sputtering
- grain size distribution
- X-ray diffraction
- transmission electron microscopy