To apply Nd-Fe-B thin films for mass-produced heat-assisted magnetic recording media, we investigated the high-rate sputtering conditions required to obtain c-axis textured Nd2Fe14B thin films and analyzed the growth mechanism. Magnetization curves indicated that higher substrate temperatures and sputtering rates resulted in a higher degree of perpendicular magnetic anisotropy; a Nd-Fe-B layer deposited at a substrate temperature (Tsub_0) of 600 °C and a sputtering rate (Rsp) of 2.6 nm/s had the easy axis perpendicular to the film plane. The dependence of the magnetic properties on the sputtering rate was due to a decrease in the substrate temperature during sputtering; there was a threshold for obtaining a high squareness ratio. X-ray diffraction analysis and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images showed that the c-axis textured Nd2Fe14B crystal phase was formed in the Nd-Fe-B layer deposited at Tsub_0 = 600 °C and Rsp = 2.6 nm/s, which resulted in the highly perpendicular magnetic anisotropy. In addition, the TEM images showed a layer of Nd2Fe14B with no obvious lattice fringes near the interface between the Nd-Fe-B layer and Mo underlayer, while the lattice fringes of the Nd2Fe14B phase were not parallel to this interface but gently curved along the Mo cap layer. We propose that the c-axis orientation was achieved by the rotation of the c plane, which has the lowest surface energy in the Nd2Fe14B phase, toward the vacuum-side surface during sputtering.
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