Through analyzing the growth mechanism of the Ru layer in a nonmagnetic intermediate layer (NMIL) for perpendicular magnetic recording media, a concept for the NMIL is proposed in order to realize a recording layer of small, highly c -plane oriented grains with no intergranular exchange coupling. It was found that (1) fast Fourier transform analysis of plan-view transmission electron microscopy lattice images of Ru layers revealed that hexagonal close packed Ru grains in a c -plane oriented film readily coalesce with each other due to the disappearance of low-angle tilt boundaries. (2) A promising candidate for a NMIL consists of three individual epitaxially grown functional layers: a large-grain seed layer with a highly oriented sheet texture, a first interlayer of small grains, and a second interlayer of nonmagnetic grains isolated by a segregated oxide. (3) The Ru- SiO2 /Ru/Mg NMIL based on the proposed concept exhibited small (diameter: 4.8 nm) Ru grains while retaining a narrow orientation distribution of 4.1°.
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