Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20030231437 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/174,866
Publication dateDec 18, 2003
Filing dateJun 17, 2002
Priority dateJun 17, 2002
Also published asUS7043823, US20040223267
Publication number10174866, 174866, US 2003/0231437 A1, US 2003/231437 A1, US 20030231437 A1, US 20030231437A1, US 2003231437 A1, US 2003231437A1, US-A1-20030231437, US-A1-2003231437, US2003/0231437A1, US2003/231437A1, US20030231437 A1, US20030231437A1, US2003231437 A1, US2003231437A1
InventorsJeffrey Childress, Elizabeth Dobisz, Robert Fontana, Kuok Ho, Ching Tsang, Son Nguyen
Original AssigneeChildress Jeffrey R., Dobisz Elizabeth A., Fontana Robert E., Ho Kuok San, Tsang Ching Hwa, Nguyen Son Van
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Current-perpendicular-to-plane magnetoresistive device with oxidized free layer side regions and method for its fabrication
US 20030231437 A1
Abstract
A current-perpendicular-to the-plane (CPP) magnetoresistive device has two ferromagnetic layers separated by a nonmagnetic spacer layer with the free ferromagnetic layer having a central region of ferromagnetic material and nonmagnetic side regions formed of one or more oxides of the ferromagnetic material. One type of CPP device is a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) magnetoresistive read head in which the lower pinned layer has a width and height greater than the width and height, respectively, of the overlying central region of the upper free layer, with the side regions of the free layer being oxidized and therefore nonmagnetic. The MTJ read head is formed by patterning resist in the shape of the free layer central region over the stack of layers in the MTJ, ion milling or etching the stack down into the free layer, and then exposing the stack to oxygen to oxidize the ferromagnetic material in the side regions not covered by the resist.
Images(8)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(24)
What is claimed is:
1. A magnetic tunnel junction device comprising:
a substrate;
a pinned ferromagnetic layer on the substrate and having a width in a first dimension in the plane of the pinned layer and a magnetization direction oriented in a preferred direction and substantially prevented from rotation in the presence of an applied magnetic field in the range of interest;
an insulating tunnel barrier layer on the pinned layer;
a free ferromagnetic layer on the tunnel barrier layer and having a width defined by side edges and less than the width of the pinned layer, the free layer having a magnetization direction substantially free to rotate in the presence of an applied magnetic field in the range of interest; and
a nonmagnetic side region located on the tunnel barrier layer on each side of and adjacent to the side edges of the free layer, each side region being formed of one or more oxides of the same ferromagnetic material present in the free layer.
2. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the magnetization directions of the pinned and free ferromagnetic layers are substantially parallel or antiparallel to one another in the absence of an applied magnetic field.
3. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the magnetization directions of the pinned and free ferromagnetic layers are substantially perpendicular to one another in the absence of an applied magnetic field.
4. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the pinned layer has a height in a second dimension in the plane of the pinned layer perpendicular to said first dimension and wherein the free layer has a height less than the height of the pinned layer.
5. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 further comprising a capping layer on the free layer.
6. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 further comprising a layer of antiferromagnetic material on the substrate below the pinned layer for pinning the magnetization of the pinned layer by antiferromagnetic exchange coupling.
7. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the tunnel barrier layer is formed substantially of alumina.
8. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 further comprising an insulating cover on each insulating side region and formed of material having a composition different from the composition of the side region.
9. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the substrate is a magnetic shield layer formed on the trailing surface of a head carrier.
10. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to 9 further comprising a nonmagnetic electrically conductive lead layer on the shield layer.
11. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the free layer is formed of an alloy comprising Co and Fe, and wherein the nonmagnetic side regions are formed of one or more oxides of Co and Fe.
12. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the free layer is formed of an alloy comprising Ni and Fe, and wherein the nonmagnetic side regions are formed of one or more oxides of Ni and Fe.
13. The magnetic tunnel junction device according to claim 1 wherein the free layer is formed of an alloy comprising Co, Ni and Fe, and wherein the nonmagnetic side regions are formed of one or more oxides of Co, Ni and Fe.
14. A magnetic tunnel junction read head for sensing data recorded on a magnetic recording disk, the head comprising:
a first magnetic shield layer;
a fixed ferromagnetic layer over the shield layer and having a width W along a dimension corresponding to the trackwidth TW dimension of the disk and a height H along a dimension substantially perpendicular to the TW dimension, the magnetization of the fixed layer being fixed in a direction along its height;
an insulating tunnel barrier layer on the fixed ferromagnetic layer;
a free ferromagnetic layer formed of an alloy comprising the elements of Fe and one or more of Co and Ni on the tunnel barrier layer and having a width TW defined by side edges and less than W and a stripe height SH less than H, the free layer having a magnetization direction in the TW dimension in the absence of an applied field, the magnetization direction of the free layer being substantially free to rotate in the presence of magnetic fields from the disk;
a nonmagnetic side region located on the tunnel barrier layer on each side of and adjacent to the side edges of the free layer, each side region being formed of one or more oxides of the elements in the alloy of said ferromagnetic free layer; and
a second magnetic shield layer over the free layer and nonmagnetic side regions.
15. The magnetic tunnel junction read head according to claim 14 further comprising a first nonmagnetic electrically conductive bottom lead layer between the first shield layer and the fixed layer, and a second nonmagnetic electrically conductive top lead layer between the free layer and the second shield layer.
16. The magnetic tunnel junction read head according to claim 15 further comprising an antiferromagnetic layer on the bottom lead layer, the fixed layer being located on and in contact with the antiferromagnetic layer and exchange coupled with the fixed layer for pinning the magnetization of the fixed layer in said direction along its height.
17. The magnetic tunnel junction read head according to claim 14 wherein H/W is greater than one.
18. A current-perpendicular to the plane magnetoresistive sensor comprising:
a substrate;
a pinned ferromagnetic layer on the substrate and having a width in a first dimension in the plane of the pinned layer and a magnetization direction oriented in a preferred direction and substantially prevented from rotation in the presence of an applied magnetic field in the range of interest;
a nonmagnetic spacer layer on the pinned layer;
a free ferromagnetic layer on the spacer layer and having a width defined by side edges and less than the width of the pinned layer, the free layer having a magnetization direction substantially free to rotate in the presence of an applied magnetic field in the range of interest; and
a nonmagnetic side region located on the spacer layer on each side of and adjacent to the side edges of the free layer, each side region being formed of one or more oxides of the same ferromagnetic material present in the free layer.
19. The sensor according to claim 18 wherein the spacer layer is electrically insulating.
20. The sensor according to claim 18 wherein the spacer layer is electrically conducting.
21. A method for making a current-perpendicular to the plane magnetoresistive sensor comprising:
depositing on a substrate in succession a layer of antiferromagnetic material, a first layer of ferromagnetic material, a spacer layer of nonmagnetic material, a second layer of ferromagnetic material, and a layer of capping material;
providing a mask over a central region of the capping layer and underlying central region of the second ferromagnetic layer;
removing the capping layer and a portion of the second ferromagnetic layer in side regions not covered by the mask;
oxidizing the remaining material in the second ferromagnetic layer in the side regions not covered by the mask; and
removing the mask.
22. The method according to claim 21 further comprising depositing over the oxidized side regions electrically insulating cover material different from the material of the oxidized side regions.
23. The method according to claim 21 wherein depositing the nonmagnetic spacer layer comprises depositing electrically insulating material.
24. The method according to claim 23 wherein depositing electrically insulating material comprises depositing a layer of aluminum and then oxidizing the aluminum.
Description
TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The invention relates generally to a current-perpendicular-to-the-plane (CPP) magnetoresistive device that operates with the sense current directed perpendicularly to the planes of two ferromagnetic layers separated by a nonmagnetic spacer layer, and more particularly to a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) type of CPP device and method for its fabrication.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] A magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) has two metallic ferromagnetic layers separated by a very thin nonmagnetic insulating tunnel barrier layer, wherein the tunneling current perpendicularly through the layers depends on the relative orientation of the magnetizations in the two ferromagnetic layers. The high magnetoresistance at room temperature and generally low magnetic switching fields of the MTJ makes it a promising candidate for the use in magnetic sensors, such as a read head in a magnetic recording disk drive, and nonvolatile memory elements or cells for magnetic random access memory (MRAM).

[0003] IBM's U.S. Pat. No. 5,650,958 describes an MTJ for use as a magnetoresistive read head and as a non-volatile memory cell wherein one of the ferromagnetic layers has its magnetization fixed, such as by being pinned by exchange coupling with an adjacent antiferromagnetic layer, and the other ferromagnetic layer is “free” to rotate in the presence of an applied magnetic field in the range of interest of the read head or memory cell. When the MTJ is a disk drive magnetoresistive read head, the magnetization of the fixed or pinned ferromagnetic layer will be generally perpendicular to the plane of the disk, and the magnetization of the free ferromagnetic layer will be generally parallel to the plane of the disk but will rotate slightly when exposed to magnetic fields from the recorded data on the disk. When the MTJ is a memory cell, the magnetization of the free ferromagnetic layer will be either parallel or antiparallel to the magnetization of the pinned ferromagnetic layer.

[0004] IBM's U.S. Pat. No. 5,729,410 describes an MTJ magnetoresistive read head with longitudinal biasing of the free ferromagnetic layer in which the MTJ device has electrical leads that connect to the sense circuitry. The leads are in contact with the insulating material in the read gap and the gap material is in contact with the magnetic shields so that the leads are electrically insulated from the shields. IBM's U.S. Pat. No. 5,898,548 describes an MTJ magnetoresistive read head with a narrow gap in which the leads are in direct contact with the magnetic shields, so that the shields also carry current from the sense circuitry.

[0005] In addition to MTJ devices, there are other current-perpendicular-to-the-plane (CPP) sensors that operate with the sense current directed perpendicularly to the planes of two ferromagnetic layers separated by a nonmagnetic spacer layer. One other type of CPP sensor is a spin-valve (SV) sensor in which the nonmagnetic spacer layer is electrically conductive. Thus in a MTJ magnetoresistive read head, the spacer layer is typically alumina (Al2O3) while in a CPP SV magnetoresistive read head the spacer layer is typically copper. CPP SV read heads are described by A. Tanaka et al., “Spin-valve heads in the current-perpendicular-to-plane mode for ultrahigh-density recording”, IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON MAGNETICS, 38 (1): 84-88 Part 1 January 2002.

[0006] In the previously cited '958 patent, the pinned ferromagnetic layer is the lower ferromagnetic layer and has an outer perimeter greater than that of the upper free ferromagnetic layer. This MTJ device is patterned by ion milling down through the upper free ferromagnetic layer, stopping at the barrier layer. Alumina is then deposited on the sides of the free ferromagnetic layer on top of the barrier layer. The ion milling process suffers from the disadvantages of redeposition of conductive material and the inability to precisely control the removal process due to uncertainties in the ion milling rate and film thicknesses, which makes it difficult to avoid damaging the pinned ferromagnetic layer.

[0007] What is needed is an MTJ device with a pinned ferromagnetic layer having an outer perimeter greater than that of the free ferromagnetic layer and that can be fabricated without the disadvantages of the prior art ion milling process.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The invention is a CPP device wherein the free ferromagnetic layer has a central region of ferromagnetic material defined by side edges, and nonmagnetic side regions adjacent the edges of the central region formed of one or more oxides of the ferromagnetic material. In one embodiment the device is a MTJ magnetoresistive read head formed between two magnetic shields, with the pinned ferromagnetic layer on a first nonmagnetic spacer on the bottom shield, the insulating tunnel barrier layer on the pinned layer, the free ferromagnetic layer on the tunnel barrier layer, a second nonmagnetic spacer on the free ferromagnetic layer and the top shield on the free ferromagnetic layer. The pinned layer has a width and height greater than the width and height, respectively, of the overlying central region of the free layer, with the regions of the free layer other than the central region being oxidized and therefore nonmagnetic. The MTJ read head is formed by patterning resist in the shape of the free layer central region over the stack of layers in the MTJ, ion milling the stack down into the free layer, and then exposing the stack to oxygen to oxidize the ferromagnetic material in the side regions not covered by the resist. The material of the free layer as deposited is an alloy comprising Fe and one or more of Co and Ni, which remains in the central region, with the side regions becoming one or more nonmagnetic oxides of Fe and Co and/or Ni. Additional insulating material different from the oxides, such as Al2O3 or SiO2, can be formed as cover layers over the nonmagnetic side regions of the free layer.

[0009] For a fuller understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken together with the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

[0010]FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view a conventional prior art MTJ device.

[0011]FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the MTJ device of the present invention in the form of an MTJ read head for a magnetic recording disk drive.

[0012]FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the MTJ read head of FIG. 2 with the top lead, insulating covers and insulating outer regions removed.

[0013] FIGS. 4A-4I illustrate the process sequence for forming the MTJ read head of the present invention with the selective oxidation process to form the oxidized side region of the free layer.

[0014]FIG. 5 is a graph showing the effect of oxidation on the ferromagnetic free layer material vs. time.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0015] Prior Art

[0016]FIG. 1 illustrates in cross-sectional view a conventional prior art MTJ device. The device includes a substrate 9, a base multilayer stack 10, a spacer layer of an insulating tunnel barrier layer 20, a top stack 30, an insulating layer 40 surrounding top stack 30 and bottom stack 10, and a top wiring layer or electrical lead 50. The tunnel barrier layer 20 is sandwiched between the two stacks 10 and 30.

[0017] The base stack 10 formed on substrate 9 includes a first seed layer 12 deposited on substrate 9, an optional “template” ferromagnetic layer 14 on the seed layer 12, a layer of antiferromagnetic material 16 on the template layer 14, and a “pinned” ferromagnetic layer 18 formed on and exchange coupled with the underlying antiferromagnetic layer 16. The ferromagnetic layer 18 is called the pinned layer because its magnetization direction (shown by arrow 19) is prevented from rotation in the presence of applied magnetic fields in the desired range of interest for the MTJ device, i.e., the field from the write current if the device is a MTJ memory cell, or the field from the data recorded on the disk if the device is a MTJ read head. The top electrode stack 30 includes a “free” ferromagnetic layer 32 and a protective or capping layer 34 formed on the free layer 32. The magnetization direction of the ferromagnetic layer 32 is not pinned by exchange coupling, and is thus free to rotate in the presence of applied magnetic fields in the range of interest. When the device is an MTJ memory cell, the magnetization direction of ferromagnetic layer 32 will be either parallel or antiparallel to the magnetization direction 19 of pinned ferromagnetic layer 18. When the device is an MTJ sensor, such as a disk drive read head, the magnetization direction of pinned ferromagnetic layer 18 will be oriented into the paper in FIG. 1 and the magnetization direction of free ferromagnetic layer 32 will be oriented in the plane of the paper in FIG. 1 (perpendicular to the magnetization direction of pinned ferromagnetic layer 18) in the absence of an applied magnetic field, but will rotate slightly when exposed to a magnetic field from the recorded data on the disk, as described in the previously cited '410 patent.

[0018] The materials for MTJ devices with the structure illustrated in FIG. 1 are well known, and representative ones will be described. The MTJ base stack 10 comprises a stack of 200 Å Pt/40 Å Ni81Fe19/100 Å Mn50Fe50/80 Å Ni81Fe19 (layers 12, 14, 16, 18, respectively) grown on substrate 9. In addition to Pt, other conducting underlayers include Ta, Cu and Au. Other CoFe and NiFe alloys may be used for the ferromagnetic layers and other antiferromagnetic materials include NiMn, PtMn and IrMn. Substrate 9 would be a silicon wafer if the device is a memory cell. Substrate 9 would typically be the bottom electrically conductive lead located on either the alumina gap material or the magnetic shield material on the trailing surface of the head carrier if the device is a read head, as shown in the previously cited '410 patent. The stack 10 is grown in the presence of a magnetic field applied parallel to the surface of the substrate wafer. The magnetic field serves to orient the Mn50Fe50 antiferromagnetic layer 16. Layer 16 pins the magnetization direction of the NiFe free ferromagnetic layer 18 by exchange coupling. Next, the tunnel barrier layer 20 is formed by depositing and then oxidizing a 5-15 Å Al layer. This creates the Al2O3 insulating tunnel barrier layer 20. While Al2O3 is the most common tunnel barrier material, a wide range of other materials may be used, including MgO, AlN, aluminum oxynitride, oxides and nitrides of gallium and indium, and bilayers and trilayers of such materials. The MTJ top stack 30 is an 80 Å Co/200 Å Pt stack (layers 32, 34, respectively) having a cross-sectional area of a few microns or less. The free ferromagnetic layer 32 is preferably either a single layer of an alloy of Fe and one or more of Co and Ni, or a bilayer of a CoFe alloy and a NiFe alloy. The top stack 30 is surrounded by an insulation layer 40, which is typically SiO2 if the device is a memory cell and alumina if the device is a read head. The junction is contacted by a 200 Å Ag/3000 Å Au contact layer 50 that serves as the top wiring lead. Other capping or lead materials include Ta, Ti, Ru and Rh.

[0019] This MTJ structure is fabricated by sputtering all the layers in the junction stack (layers 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 32, 34) onto the substrate 9, followed by ion milling down through the free ferromagnetic layer 32 to the barrier layer 20. This process of direct subtractive removal of the free ferromagnetic layer by ion milling or reactive ion etching (RIE) suffers from the disadvantages of redeposition of conductive material, inability to precisely control the removal process, and ion damage that can extend 20-40 Å below the etched surface. The ion milling or RIE of the free layer and pinned layer can cause redeposition of the material in these layers onto the edges of the tunnel barrier layer 20 and electrically “short” the insulating tunnel barrier at its edges. In addition, uncertainties in the ion milling rate and film thicknesses make it difficult to avoid damaging the underlying layers. Typical ion milling rates are 1 Å/sec for capping material (Ta) and free layer material (NiFe or CoFe). Typical capping layer thickness is 100 Å to 200 Å and typical free layer thickness is 30 Å to 40 Å. The film thickness uniformity and ion mill removal rate uniformity are each approximately 5%. Thus the use of ion milling or RIE to precisely remove the capping layer 34 and free layer 32 and stop at the tunnel barrier layer 20 has an inherent uncertainty of 13 Å to 24 Å in the removal process. This uncertainty is greater than or equivalent to the thickness of the tunnel barrier layer 20.

[0020] The Invention

[0021] The MTJ device of the present invention is shown in FIG. 2 in the form of an MTJ read head for a magnetic recording disk drive. The cross-sectional view of FIG. 2 is essentially the read head as would be viewed from the disk with “TW” representing the trackwidth of the data tracks on the disk. The layers formed on the substrate 109, which is typically the permalloy (NiFe) bottom shield or the alumina gap material in the head structure, are the bottom electrical lead layer 102, seed layer 112, antiferromagnetic layer 116, fixed or pinned ferromagnetic layer 118 with its magnetization direction 119 being shown as into the paper, nonmagnetic insulating tunnel barrier layer 120, free ferromagnetic layer 132 with its magnetization direction 135 being in the plane of the paper and perpendicular to direction 119 in the absence of an applied field from the recorded data on the disk, capping layer 134 and top electrical lead 150. The top magnetic shield (not shown) or alumina gap material (not shown) would then be formed on top lead 150, as depicted in the previously cited '410 and '548 patents. The bottom lead 102 and top lead 150 are formed of nonmagnetic materials and thus serve as first and second spacer layers to separate the ferromagnetic layers of the device from the bottom magnetic shield 109 and top magnetic shield, respectively.

[0022] Typical material compositions and thicknesses for layers 102 through 134 are as follows:

[0023] 20-50 Å Ru or Ta lead layer/20-50 Å NiFe or NiFeCr seed layer/200 Å PtMn or IrMn antiferromagnetic layer/30 Å NiFe or CoFe or NiFe—CoFe bilayer pinned layer/10-20 Å Al2O3 tunnel barrier layer/30 Å NiFe or CoFe or CoFe—NiFe bilayer free layer/50-100 Å Ta, Ru or Ti capping layer.

[0024] The device is similar to the prior art of FIG. 1 with the primary difference being that there are nonmagnetic side regions 142 adjacent free layer 132 that are formed of oxides of the ferromagnetic material making up free layer 132. The side regions 142 are formed by selectively oxidizing the free layer to render it locally nonmagnetic (substantially incapable of conducting magnetic flux) and electrically insulating. Insulating alumina covers 140 are formed on top of the oxidized side regions 142. Additional alumina is located in outer regions 147 surrounding the outer edges of the tunnel barrier layer 120 and the layers beneath it. Covers 140 and outer regions 147 may be formed of other insulating material, such as SiO2.

[0025]FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the MTJ read head with the top lead 150 and alumina covers 140 and outer regions 147 removed. Because the pinned layer 118 has a width W wider than the width (trackwidth TW) of the free layer 132 in the trackwidth direction, better longitudinal biasing of the free layer in this direction is achieved since the edge domain effects of the pinned layer are physically separated from the edges of the free layer by the nonmagnetic side regions 142. FIG. 3 also illustrates that the pinned layer 118 can have a height H greater than the height (stripe height SH) of the free layer 132 in the stripe height dimension perpendicular to the trackwidth dimension. Because the pinned layer 118 can be formed with an aspect ratio (H/W) greater than unity, better stabilization of the pinned layer magnetization direction 119 along its height H can be achieved.

[0026] The MTJ device of the present invention is fabricated using controlled oxidation of selected regions 142 of the free layer 132 to render the free layer nonmagnetic and non-conducting in these selected regions above the pinned layer 118. The oxidation process does not penetrate the previously oxidized tunnel barrier layer 120 and therefore can not damage the underlying pinned layer.

[0027] FIGS. 4A-4I illustrate the process sequence for forming the MTJ device with the selective oxidation process. The process begins (FIG. 4A) by sputter depositing on the substrate (not shown) the MTJ layers 102 through 118 followed by a layer of Al, typically 5-15 Å thick. The Al is then oxidized by evacuation of the Ar sputtering gas and then either introduction of oxygen or exposure to an oxygen plasma. This forms the alumina (Al2O3) tunnel barrier layer 120, typically 10-20 Å thick. The remaining layers 132 and 134 are then sputter deposited over the tunnel barrier layer, resulting in the stack shown in FIG. 4A. A mask of resist 800 is then patterned on a central region of the capping layer 134 to define the lateral edges (TW and SH) of the free layer 132, as shown in FIG. 4B. The stack is then moved to the RIE or ion milling tool where it is etched through the capping layer 134 and ending at or into the free layer 132 (FIG. 4C).

[0028] Next, the exposed portions of free layer 132 are oxidized in the RIE or ion milling tool to render these regions 142 of the free layer nonmagnetic and non-conducting (FIG. 4D). Suitable oxidation processes include ozone treatment, air oxidation, thermal oxidation, plasma oxidation, electrolytic oxidation, implantation of oxygen or molecular oxygen (O2, O3) ions or neutrals. Reactive oxygen plasma induced oxidation can be performed in a RF coupled plasma, electron cyclotron resonance coupled plasma, or an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) system. A preferred process for oxidation of the free layer is with an ICP tool, which generates a dense plasma of oxygen radicals and allows the substrate bias to be controlled separately from the plasma source. When etching a test wafer with photoresist in the ICP system in an oxygen plasma under our typical plasma oxidation conditions, the etch rate is uniform across an entire 5 inch wafer to within 3%. The ICP oxidation process that induced demagnetization of the ferromagnetic layer had parameters of 30 scc O2/min, 20° C. substrate temperature, 10 mT chamber pressure, 50W @ 13.56 MHz applied to the source coils, and 18W @ 13.56 MHz applied to the substrate.

[0029] The regions 142 become oxides of the material in the free layer 132, e.g., one or more oxides of Fe and Co and/or Ni. Because the underlying layer 120 is already oxidized, the oxidation process is self-limiting, so control of the oxidation time is not critical. Next, insulation material, typically alumina or SiO2, is deposited to form covers 140 above the nonmagnetic side regions 142, followed by lift-of of the resist 800, resulting in the structure shown in FIG. 4E. While the deposition of the covers 140 is preferred, this additional step may not be necessary if the oxide regions 142 are sufficiently free of pin holes. New resist 820 is then patterned to define the outside lateral extent of the pinned layer 118 as well as the other layers in the stack (FIG. 4F). The stack is then ion milled or RIE to remove all the layers down to the substrate (FIG. 4G), and an insulating layer of alumina or SiO2 is then deposited to form the outer regions 147 (FIG. 4H). Finally the top electrical lead 150, typically 200 Å of Ta, Au or Cu, is deposited and patterned over the capping layer 134 (FIG. 4I). FIG. 5 is a graph showing the effect of oxidation on the effective ferromagnetic layer thickness (as calculated from measurements of magnetic moment) vs. time. Shown in the plot are data points for two compositions: a 31 Å CoFe single layer and a 10 Å CoFe/32 Å NiFe bilayer. While these two compositions have different physical thicknesses, they each have substantially the same effective magnetic thicknesses as a 36 Å film of NiFe. The oxidation time was approximately 6 minutes to demagnetize the CoFe single layer, and approximately 14 minutes to demagnetize the CoFe/NiFe bilayer.

[0030] While the device and method for its fabrication have been described above with respect to an MTJ device, particularly an MTJ sensor in the form an MTJ read head, the invention is also applicable to current-perpendicular-to-the-plane or CPP spin-valve (SV) sensors. A CPP SV read head has a structure substantially the same as the above-described MTJ read head, with the exception that the spacer layer is electrically conductive instead of insulating. For example, a copper spacer layer can replace the alumina tunneling barrier layer.

[0031] While the present invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the disclosed invention is to be considered merely as illustrative and limited in scope only as specified in the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7050272 *Dec 30, 2002May 23, 2006Storage Technology CorporationReduction of contact noise in single-ended magnetoresistive read elements
US7057249 *Jul 2, 2003Jun 6, 2006Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.Magnetic memory device
US7148072 *May 28, 2004Dec 12, 2006Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Method and apparatus for oxidizing conductive redeposition in TMR sensors
US7218486Jun 28, 2004May 15, 2007Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Extended pinned layer on top of lead/HB to avoid amplitude flipping
US7236336Apr 30, 2004Jun 26, 2007Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc, Netherlands B.V.Method and apparatus for providing a free layer having higher saturation field capability and optimum sensitivity
US7346977Mar 3, 2005Mar 25, 2008Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Method for making a magnetoresistive read head having a pinned layer width greater than the free layer stripe height
US7350284Oct 29, 2004Apr 1, 2008Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Methods of making a current-perpendicular-to-the-planes (CPP) type sensor by ion milling to the spacer layer using a mask without undercuts
US7369371 *Aug 15, 2005May 6, 2008Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Magnetoresistive sensor having a shape enhanced pinned layer
US7419610Aug 5, 2005Sep 2, 2008Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Method of partial depth material removal for fabrication of CPP read sensor
US7502211Jan 26, 2006Mar 10, 2009Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.MTJ device with partially milled anti-parallel coupled bottom free layer
US7538989Feb 14, 2006May 26, 2009Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Tunnel MR head formed with partial milled stack
US7698807Jan 20, 2006Apr 20, 2010Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Netherlands B.V.Method of manufacturing a magnetic sensor by multiple depositions of varying geometry
US7859799Feb 13, 2007Dec 28, 2010Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Magnetoresistive head and a manufacturing method thereof
US7999360Oct 23, 2009Aug 16, 2011Headway Technologies, Inc.Underlayer for high performance magnetic tunneling junction MRAM
US8045299 *Nov 10, 2006Oct 25, 2011Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.Method and apparatus for oxidizing conductive redeposition in TMR sensors
US8119425Jan 8, 2010Feb 21, 2012Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Method of forming magnetic memory device
US8163569Mar 17, 2011Apr 24, 2012Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Magnetic memory devices and methods of forming the same
US8350348Mar 12, 2012Jan 8, 2013Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Magnetic memory devices and methods of forming the same
US8416540Jun 26, 2008Apr 9, 2013Western Digital (Fremont), LlcMethod for defining a magnetoresistive junction using multiple mills at a plurality of angles
US8426222 *Sep 29, 2011Apr 23, 2013Seagate Technology LlcMagnetic stack with oxide to reduce switching current
US8670216Feb 11, 2013Mar 11, 2014HGST Netherlands B.V.Current-perpendicular-to-the-plane (CPP) magnetoresistive sensor with an exchange-coupled reference layer having shape anisotropy
US8673654Oct 23, 2009Mar 18, 2014Headway Technologies, Inc.Underlayer for high performance magnetic tunneling junction MRAM
US8686524 *Jun 8, 2012Apr 1, 2014Seagate Technology LlcMagnetic stack with oxide to reduce switching current
US20120021535 *Sep 29, 2011Jan 26, 2012Seagate Technology LlcMagnetic stack with oxide to reduce switching current
US20120241886 *Jun 8, 2012Sep 27, 2012Seagate Technology LlcMagnetic stack with oxide to reduce switching current
US20130285177 *Apr 29, 2013Oct 31, 2013Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Inc.Magnetic memory and method of fabrication
EP1615226A2 *Jun 14, 2005Jan 11, 2006Headway Technologies, Inc.A novel underlayer for high performance magnetic tunneling junction MRAM
EP1818915A2 *Jan 16, 2007Aug 15, 2007Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Netherlands B.V.A magnetoresistive head and a manufacturing method thereof
Classifications
U.S. Classification360/324.12, 360/324.2, 257/E43.004, G9B/5.116, 257/E43.006, 29/603.18
International ClassificationH01L43/12, G11B5/31, G11B5/39, G01R33/09, H01L43/08
Cooperative ClassificationB82Y10/00, G11B5/3163, G01R33/093, G11B2005/3996, B82Y25/00, G11B5/3116, G11B5/313, H01L43/08, G11B5/3903, H01L43/12, G11B5/3909
European ClassificationB82Y10/00, B82Y25/00, G11B5/39C1C, G11B5/39C, G01R33/09B, H01L43/12, H01L43/08
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 17, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, NEW Y
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:CHILDRESS, JEFFREY R.;DOBISZ, ELIZABETH A.;FONTANA, ROBERT E., JR.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:013039/0329;SIGNING DATES FROM 20020607 TO 20020614