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Properties of Cr2AlC thin films disordered by ion-irradiation

Salgado Cabaco, J.; Kentsch, U.; Lindner, J.; Faßbender, J.; Leyens, C.; Bali, R.; Boucher, R.


MAX phases are nano-lamellar composite materials of the form Mn+1AXn, where n is 1, 2 or 3; M an early transition metal; A is an A-group element and X is carbon or nitrogen [1,2]. An interesting combination of metallic and ceramic properties as well as potential applications in spintronics [1,3] led to significant research interest in MAX phases. Literature on the effect of systematic disordering of the nano-laminar structure on the magnetic and transport properties is still limited. In particular, MAX phase systems doped with magnetic ions via ion-irradiation may result in large variations of the magneto-transport properties. Here we observe the magneto-transport properties and attempt to separate the contributions of structural changes due to the irradiation and magnetic effects due to the doping on the magneto-transport. A prototype material is Cr2AlC, formed from a unit cell of Cr2C sandwiched between atomic planes of Al. In this work, we study 50 nm and 500 nm thick thin films of Cr2AlC grown on Si (111) by sputtering and subsequent annealing. Structural characterization using X-ray Diffraction in Bragg-Brentano geometry shows a pronounced MAX phase, confirmed by the occurrence of the 002 superlattice reflection. The films were irradiated with Co+ at 450 (50) keV for the 500 (50) nm thick films. The Co+ fluence varied between 1×10^12 - 1×10^15^-2, in full order steps. The Co+ irradiation led to a gradual suppression of the 0002 superstructure reflection, while preserving the fundamental peaks, implying the intermixing of the nano-laminar MAX phase structure. The magnetic properties are characterized using vibrating sample magnetometry at low temperatures, showing an increasing paramagnetic behavior as the Co+-fluence increases. In comparison, magneto-resistance measurements show that for the 500 nm film thickness, the magnetoresistance reaches up to 3 % (10 T) for 100 K, at an optimized Co+-fluence of 5×10^13^-2. The above results suggest that in the low-fluence regime, the irradiation-induced disorder remains sufficiently low to obtain pronounced magneto-resistance values. Understanding the defect state in the optimized MAX phase films will shed light on the magneto-transport mechanisms in these nano-laminated materials.

Keywords: Ion Irradiation; X-ray diffraction; Disorder; MAX phases

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