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Thin Films Show Their Stripes

Photonics.com
Oct 2007
GAITHERSBURG, Md., Oct. 1, 2007 -- Using an array of parallel nanowires called "stripes," materials researchers have demonstrated a spectroscopic technique for measuring the magnetic properties of the edges of thin films. The results may impact the design of future nanoscale electronics.

Ferromagnetic thin films of metallic materials ranging in thickness from fractions of a nanometer to several micrometers are layered in patterns on a substrate (such as silicon) during the manufacture of many microelectronic devices that use magnetic properties, such as computer hard drives. While methods for measuring the magnetic properties of ferromagnetic thin films have existed for some time, there currently is no way to define those properties for the edges of the film. On a relatively large-scale device, this doesn’t matter much. However, as microelectronic components get smaller and smaller, the edge becomes a bigger and bigger fraction of the surface, eventually becoming the thin film's dominant surface and the driver of its magnetic character. (Shrink a disk by half and the top surface area is reduced by a factor of four while the length of the edge is only halved.)
nanowires.jpg
Spectroscopic image showing the microwave-frequency magnetic resonances of an array of parallel, metallic thin-film nanowires ("stripes"). The peak in the center is due to resonances occurring at the stripe edges while the strong horizontal bar is due to resonances in the body of the stripes. (Image: Brian Maranville)
A research team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, in collaboration with IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently demonstrated a spectroscopic technique for measuring the magnetic properties of the edges of nickel-iron alloy thin films patterned in an array of parallel nanowires (called "stripes") atop a silicon disk. The researchers beamed microwaves of different frequencies over the stripes and measured the magnetic resonances that resulted. Because a thin film's edge resonates differently from its center, the researchers were able to determine which data -- and subsequently, which magnetic behaviors -- were attributable to the edge.

In its first trials, the new technique has been used to measure how the magnetic properties of the thin-film edge are affected by the thickness of the film and the processing conditions during the stripe patterning. Data gained from the study of stripes with widths of 250 to 1000 nanometers will be used to predict the behavior of similar structures at the nanoscale level (100 nm or less).

For more information, visit: www.nist.gov


GLOSSARY
electronics
That branch of science involved in the study and utilization of the motion, emissions and behaviors of currents of electrical energy flowing through gases, vacuums, semiconductors and conductors, not to be confused with electrics, which deals primarily with the conduction of large currents of electricity through metals.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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