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Vol. 5, No. 1 (2015) 1530002 (26 pages)


World Scientic Publishing Company
DOI: 10.1142/S2010324715300029

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density


Perpendicular Magnetic Recording Media
by L10 -Fe(Co)Pt Materials
Fang Wang
Key Laboratory of Magnetic Molecules and Magnetic Information
Material of Ministry of Education
School of Chemistry and Materials Science of Shanxi Normal University
Linfen 041004, P. R. China
wf_0716@163.com
Hui Xing
Department of Physics, University at Bualo
SUNY, Bualo, NY 14260, USA
huixing.cmp@gmail.com
Xiaohong Xu*
Key Laboratory of Magnetic Molecules and Magnetic Information
Material of Ministry of Education
School of Chemistry and Materials Science of Shanxi Normal University
Linfen 041004, P. R. China
xuxh@dns.sxnu.edu.cn
Received 20 January 2015
Accepted 6 April 2015
Published 22 April 2015
L10 -ordered FePt and CoPt (collectively called L10 -Fe(Co)Pt in this review) have become potential materials for future ultrahigh density perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) media due
to their high magnetocrystalline anisotropy, rendering small grains with high thermal stability.
However, PMR media using such high anisotropy faces the well-known trilemma issues among
thermal stability, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and writability. This paper will provide an overview of the impact of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt on overcoming the superparamagnetic limit and balancing
the trilemma issues for ultrahigh density PMR media. Here the research and development of
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt materials will be presented, from the perspectives of enhancing thermal stability,
SNR and writability. Furthermore, we will provide some combined approaches to tackle the
challenges in balancing the trilemma issues, focusing on materials engineering.
Keywords: Perpendicular magnetic recording media; L10 -Fe(Co)Pt; trilemma; thermal stability;
signal-to-noise ratio; writability.

*Corresponding

author.
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1. Introduction
The demand for data storage devices has never been
higher due to the exponential growth of new information. Up to now, hard disk drive (HDD) is still
the main storage device among various storage
technologies for its cost per gigabyte of data although solid state memories have gained momentum in personal computers and electronic devices
market.1 On the other hand, the fast developing
cloud storage market provides new demand for
HDD. Over the past several decades, there was
tremendous growth in the areal density of HDDs,
especially since the introduction of the giant magnetoresistance (GMR)2,3 head technology in 1996.
However, the rate of increase started to drop since
2003, partly due to the superparamagnetic behavior
of the longitudinal recording media, which made it
dicult to break 100 Gb/in.2.4 Thus CoCr-based
perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) with the
magnetic moment of the bit oriented along the lm
normal was introduced to overcome the superparamagnetic eect.5 Moreover, both signal-to-noise
ratio (SNR) and areal density can be improved by
this recording structure. The rst CoCrPt perpendicular recording HDD with areal density of
133 Gbit/in.2 was rst demonstrated by Toshiba in
2004. The transition from longitudinal to perpendicular recording has resulted in rapid growth in
areal density for nearly another decade. However,
with the areal density approaching 1 Tbit/in.2
today, the CoCrPt perpendicular recording media is
still facing the superparamagnetic limit. In order to
overcome this limit on magnetic recording, the exploitation of new technology or new materials is
necessary.
It is well known that increasing the anisotropy
of the media can compensate for the superparamagnetic eect caused by the reduction in grain
size because the anisotropy barrier of magnetization
reversal is proportional to Ku V , where Ku and V are
the uniaxial magnetocrystalline anisotropy and grain
volume, respectively.6 Chemically ordered L10 -alloys
with a face-centered-tetragonal (fct) structure, such
as L10 -Fe(Co)Pt, have become one of the potential
materials due to their high magnetocrystalline anisotropy.7 Thus, L10 -Fe(Co)Pt grains with small
sizes can provide high SNR, which is determined by
the number of grains in each bit (SNR 10log(N),
where N is the number of grains in a bit.).810 However, the high anisotropy results in an increase in

Fig. 1.

Trilemma issues of the PMR media.

coercivity (Hc ) proportional to Ku /Ms , where Ms is


the saturation magnetization. Thus the writing eld
will have to be increased, which may exceed the stray
eld that can be supplied by the write head. Therefore, thermal stability, SNR and writability are
intertwined in such a way that the improvement of
one parameter may lead to deterioration of the other.
These mutually restraining factors are commonly
called the trilemma issues of the magnetic
recording media, and the relations are shown in
Fig. 1. At present, it has become the major roadblock
to the ever increasing areal density growth of
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt perpendicular recording media.11,12 In
order to overcome and balance these issues, several
technologies have been proposed, including bit patterned media (BPM), heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), and microwave assisted magnetic
recording (MAMR). In this paper, we only provide a
review on the contributions of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt on
overcoming and balancing the trilemma issues for
ultrahigh density magnetic recording media. Therefore, we will focus on summarizing the structure and
magnetic manipulation of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt materials
on realizing the high thermal stability, high SNR, and
high writability of perpendicular recording media.
In the past decade, several new schemes were
proposed to overcome the trilemma issues. In the
following sections, we review recent progress, focusing on material engineering in L10 -Fe(Co)Pt
alloys. Section 2 discusses approaches to realizing
phase transformation of Fe(Co)Pt alloy to enhance
the thermal stability. Section 3 discusses approaches
to improving SNR, such as granular perpendicular
media (GPM), percolated perpendicular media
(PPM) and BPM. Section 4 discusses approaches to
promoting writability, including texture-tiltingassisted media and domain-wall-assisted media.

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

However, any single approach mentioned above can


only mitigate but not solve the trilemma problems.
In the last section, we provide an overview of the
predicted combining approaches to tackle the trilemma challenges.

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2. Approaches to Enhancing
Thermal Stability
The thermal stability depends on anisotropy barrier,
which is proportional to the Ku value of the material. It is known that Ku of L10 -ordered FePt and
CoPt are 6:6  10 7 erg/cm3 and 4:9  10 7 erg/cm3,
respectively, which are about 20 times higher than
that of CoCrPt used widely in the commercial recording media.6,7 It is estimated that L10 -FePt or
L10 -CoPt is thermally stable even for grain size as
small as 34 nm. If one can obtain such small
grains and write the information on them, L10 Fe(Co)Pt-based media with an ultrahigh areal
density can be readily achieved. Usually, FePt or
CoPt alloy lms deposited at room temperature
are a disordered face-centered-cubic (fcc) phase
that is magnetically soft. A high temperature
treatment, such as in situ substrate heating or
post-deposition annealing at temperatures as high
as 550750  C is necessary to obtain an ordered
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt phase.1315 However, it is dicult to
obtain (001) texture with perpendicular easy axis
orientation because the (111) plane is the closest
packed plane with the lowest surface energy. In
addition, such a high annealing temperature is not
suitable for practical applications. Therefore, many
attempts have been made to induce perfect fct
(001) texture and reduce the ordering temperature.
Here, two typical strategies are introduced to realize this goal, one is stress-assisted phase transformation, and the other is metal-doping-promoted
phase transformation.

2.1. Driving L10 -Fe(Co)Pt phase


transformation by stress-assisted
growth
Epitaxial growth is a common means to induce (001)
texture in L10 -Fe(Co)Pt materials. For FePt or
CoPt L10 -alloys, people usually use single crystal
substrates, such as MgO or introduce an additional
underlayer, such as Ag and Cr, to induce the phase
transformation from fcc to fct and to obtain (001)
orientation with the help of a small lattice mismatch

Fig. 2. XRD patterns for FePt/Pt(001)/MgO(001) lms at


substrate temperatures of 100  C, 200  C and 550  C.16

between FePt lms and substrates/underlayers.1629


Farrow et al. rst realized the control of chemical
ordering and magnetic anisotropy in epitaxial FePt
lms prepared on Pt/MgO (001) substrates.16
Figure 2 shows the specular X-ray diraction (XRD)
patterns for FePt lms grown at dierent temperatures. It is found that the long-range order parameter increases from near zero for lms grown at
100  C to a maximum of 0.93 in lms grown at
500  C. Over this range, the magnetic easy axis
changes from in-plane to perpendicular. Furthermore, Shima et al. prepared ordered L10 -FePt lms
with large magnetic anisotropy by alternating Fe
and Pt monatomic layers on MgO (001) substrates
at low temperatures.17
Among these underlayers, Ag is one of the most
popular one. Figure 3 shows the lattice constants of
FePt and fcc-Ag crystal structures. Lattice a of the
disordered fcc-FePt is 3.82 and c=a 1, while
c (3.71 ) is shorter than a (3.86 ) for ordered
L10 -FePt and c=a 0:961. As shown in Fig. 3, Ag
(001) plane has a slightly larger lattice than fct-FePt
(001) plane, and the stress caused by a small mismatch (5.6%) between Ag (001) and FePt (001) can
result in the shrinkage of the FePt lattice along the
lm normal direction and thus induce the ordering
of FePt lms at a lower ordering temperature.

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Fig. 3.

Lattice constants of FePt and fcc-Ag crystal structures.

Therefore, the stress-induced phase transformation


should be an eective method to control the perpendicular orientation and reduce the ordering
temperature of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt lms.
Several groups have prepared L10 -FePt or
L10 -CoPt lms at low temperatures by using different underlayers, and also investigated the dependence of the lattice mismatch on the ordering of
Fe(Co)Pt lm and the corresponding magnetic anisotropy. Hsu et al. reported that the epitaxial
growth of FePt induced by the Ag underlayer
is clearly improved with increasing substrate temperature from 75  C to 300  C.18,19 Xu et al. demonstrated the importance of Ag underlayer by
comparing the magnetic properties and structures of
FePt, FePt/Ag and FePt/Cu thin lms deposited
by magnetron sputtering.20,21 Figure 4 shows the
hysteresis loops of the FePt thin lms annealed at
350  C and 550  C, respectively.21 It is found that
FePt/Ag thin lm has a high coercivity of about
6.2 kOe at a relatively low temperature of 350  C,

while the coercivities of FePt and FePt/Cu lms


are only 1.2 kOe and 0.1 kOe due to the presence
of fcc-FePt disordered phase. The coercivity of
FePt/Cu lm only reaches about 3 kOe after
annealing at 550  C. This is because the lattice
parameters of Cu underlayer are too small compared
with that of FePt to induce the phase transformation of FePt lms. Furthermore, the dependence
of Ag underlayer thickness on the orientation of
CoPt lms was investigated. The (001) texture of
L10 -CoPt/Ag lms deposited by magnetron sputtering can be improved signicantly by introducing
a thicker Ag underlayer.22,23
Besides Ag underlayer, Suzuki et al. prepared
ordered FePt thin lms with perpendicular magnetic anisotropy on Cr(100) underlayer/MgO seed
layer at low temperature of 450  C due to their
proper mismatch.24 Based on the success of Cr (100)
underlayer, Wang et al. prepared the ordered FePt
thin lms with fct (001) texture on Cr100x Rux
composite underlayer.25 Addition of Ru in Cr

(a)
Fig. 4.

(b)

In-plane hysteresis loops of the thin lms: (a) 350  C and (b) 550  C.21
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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

Fig. 5. Hysteresis loops of Cr91 Ru9/Pt/FePt lm deposited at


400  C.25

underlayer results in the formation of the FePt ordered phase with c-axis orientation perpendicular to
the lm plane at a lower substrate temperature of
350  C. Figure 5 shows the out-of-plane and in-plane
hysteresis loops of Cr91 Ru9/Pt/FePt lm deposited
at 400  C.25 A thin Pt intermediate layer between
the FePt layer and the CrRu underlayer is introduced to eectively resist the Cr diusion from the
CrRu underlayer into the FePt layer. The out-ofplane loop shows a coercivity of 3.7 kOe with remanent magnetization squareness of 0.97, while the
in-plane coercivity is only 190 Oe. It indicates that
the fct (001) texture has been achieved at a lower
deposition temperature. They also found that a
critical lattice mismatch near 6.3% to be the most
suitable for improving the chemical ordering of the
FePt lms. Recently (001) textured FePt lm was
obtained on MoC/CrRu/glass at 380  C by using
magnetron sputtering, in which the MoC conductive
intermediate layer was used to resist the Cr diusion
at high deposition temperatures and promote the
epitaxial growth of the (001) texture FePt lm.26 In
addition, the FePt grains can be further separated
by excess carbon from MoC intermediate layer,
resulting in small intergrain exchange interaction.27
Other than these approaches, Bi,28 PtMn,29 and
AuCu30 underlayers were all used to induce the
phase transformation and reduce the ordering temperature of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt alloys. However, Hotta
et al. recently conrmed that there is no marked
dierence in the thickness dependence of Ku in
L10 -FePt (001) single-crystal lms grown epitaxially on dierent substrates, although the lattice
mismatch between FePt and the substrates is

markedly dierent (from 1.4% to 9.1%).31 However,


Ku decreased gradually as the lm thickness decreased. It is likely that the lattice mismatch
between FePt and these substrates was relaxed in
the rst 1 or 2 layers of FePt (001) lattices. Therefore, the lattice mismatch may not be the most
critical factor to obtain high Ku , the lm thickness
also plays an important role.
However, the usage of single crystal substrate or
underlayer is restricted in actual applications because a soft underlayer is required under the recording layer. Zeng et al. obtained nearly perfect
(001)-oriented CoPt and FePt lms with nonepitaxial growth by directly depositing lms on glass
or thermally oxidized Si substrates and rapid
thermal annealing.32,33 Figure 6 shows the typical
hysteresis loops for CoPt and FePt lms fabricated
by rapid thermal annealing.32 It is seen that the
easy axis is in the perpendicular direction for both
lms, and the perpendicular loops show large coercivity and high remanence ratio. The texture
evolution mechanism was proposed to be the mismatch between the thermal expansion coecients
of the metallic Fe(Co)Pt and glass or SiO2, which
leads to large strain. This proposal was later conrmed by works of other groups.34,35 Dang et al.
found that FePt (001) texture is obtained on
thermally oxidized Si substrates when lms thickness is less than 10 nm, whereas (111) orientation
appears in the lms with the thickness larger than
10 nm. This is similar to Hotta's results.31 The
minimizing surface energy is proposed to explain
the texture variation in the lms based on a theoretical mode.35

Fig. 6. Typical hysteresis loops for (a) CoPt annealed at


750  C for 300 s and (b) FePt annealed at 550  C for 5 s.32

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2.2. Driving L10 -Fe(Co)Pt phase


transformation by metal-doping
Another eective way to promote the ordering of
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt and reduce the phase transformation
temperature is metal-doping. However, dierent
driving mechanisms were proposed for dierent
additives in L10 -Fe(Co)Pt lms. Maeda et al. found
that the addition of Cu into FePt alloy lm is very
eective in reducing the ordering temperature of
L10 -FePt.36,37 Figure 7 shows the coercivity of FePt
and (FePt)8Cu15 lms as a function of the annealing
temperature.36 The coercivity of FePtCu lm is
around 5 kOe after annealing at 300  C, whereas
that of FePt shows several hundred Oe. The formation of the ternary FePtCu alloy is considered to
be the main reason in reducing the ordering temperature. The lattice parameters of the L10 -ordered
phase suggest that Fe atoms are substituted by Cu
atoms. The grain size increases by the addition of
Cu, suggesting that the decrease of the annealing
temperature for ordering is due to the enhanced
kinetics of ordering during the alloying process.38
Similarly, Wang et al. prepared CoPtCu/Ag lms
by magnetron sputtering and subsequent annealing,
in which Ag underlayer plays a dominant role in
inducing the (001) texture, while Cu dopant is used
to form CoPtCu ternary alloy. The CoPtCu/Ag
lms with perpendicular orientation start to order at
a lower annealing temperature of 450  C, which is
lower by 150  C than the pure CoPt/Ag lms.39
The inuences of Cu, Ag and Au additives on the
L10 ordering, texture and grain size of FePt thin
lms are reported.4043 It is suggested that Au and
Ag additives tend to segregate at the FePt grain
boundaries to inhibit FePt grain growth. However,
Cu substitution in FePt increases the average grain

size and lm roughness. FePt lms with Au or Ag


additive show 12 kOe higher coercivity compared
to that of pure FePt lm after annealing at 450  C.
The driving force of phase transformation comes
from the vacancy defects during the diusion out of
the FePt grains, resulting in an enhancement of L10
ordering kinetics and reduction of the ordering
temperature.
Besides, Kitakami et al. studied the eects of
additional elements Sn, Pb, Sb and Bi on the ordering of L10 -CoPt lms.44 All these additives are
demonstrated to be very eective to promote the
ordering of the samples annealed at 400  C, which is
200  C lower than that of pure CoPt. That is because
these additives are easy to diuse and segregate onto
the lm surfaces by post-annealing due to their very
low surface free energy and extremely low solubility
in CoPt, leading to a lot of defects to drive phase
transformation. The results are similar to that of Au
or Ag additives. In order to investigate this point,
Fig. 8 shows the Auger electron spectroscopy depth
proles of the CoPtSb lms before and after
annealing at 650  C.44 Clearly, Sb tends to diuse
towards the lm surfaces. Such surface segregation
is caused by low surface free energy and limits
solubility of Sb in CoPt. Lee et al. found that Zrdoped FePt alloy lms could accelerate ordering

(a)

(b)
Fig. 7. In-plane coercivity Hc of FePt and (FePt)8Cu15 lms
as a function of the annealing temperature.36

Fig. 8. Compositional depth proles for (a) as-made and (b)


annealed CoPt-Pb lms.44

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transformation kinetics while keeping small grains.45


It is thought that the point defects and lattice strain
introduced by Zr-doping activate the nucleation of
the ordered phase. Therefore, various metal-dopants
with dierent mechanism contribute in inducing the
ordering of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt thin lms.
Summarizing this section, many studies have
been done in obtaining L10 -Fe(Co)Pt with high Ku
values, including stress-assisted growth and metaldoping. However, L10 -Fe(Co)Pt with high Ku
values is just one of the basic requirements for
ultrahigh density recording media. In the following,
we will review strategies to improve the SNR and
writability.

3. Approaches to Improving SNR


Both stress-assisted growth and metal-doping can
help to obtain L10 -Fe(Co)Pt with large Ku values
and perpendicular orientation at relatively low temperatures. However, there exists a large transition
noise for any continuous medium. In order to reduce
the transition noise and achieve high SNR,46,47 several common approaches have been adopted for
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt, such as GPM, PPM and BPM.

Fig. 9.

3.1. Granular perpendicular media


In GPM, nonmetal additions have been used to
decouple magnetic grains. Several methods such as
cosputtering or laminating FePt or CoPt with
nonmagnetic materials have been attempted to decrease the intergrain exchange interaction. For example, highly anisotropic fct-Fe(Co)Pt nanoparticles have been prepared and embedded in C
matrix by cosputtering deposition.48 Figure 9 is the
TEM images of annealed FePt/C lms with dierent carbon thickness.48 It is shown that FePt particles are embedded in C matrix and the particle size
varies from below 3 nm to about 8 nm with decreasing the carbon contents. This is because the
nonmagnetic carbon atoms are easy to diuse into
the grain boundaries to isolate the FePt magnetic
grains during the annealing process, resulting in
a weak intergrain exchange coupling. Also the
increase of C contents plays a role in restraining grain growth. Xu et al. also found that the
grain size and intergrain interaction of the FePt/C
multilayer lms decreases with increasing C content.49 The coercivity not only depends on the C
content, but also on the structure of the FePt/C
mutilayer. Moreover, L10 -FePt particles with high

TEM images of annealed FePt/C lms with dierent carbon thickness.48


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F. Wang, H. Xing & X. Xu

magnetocrystalline anisotropy and small particle


sizes between 3 nm and 15 nm were fabricated by
annealing FePt/BN multilayers at high temperatures.50 The BN layers are used to control the interparticle interactions of FePt grains.
Oxides are usually used as segregating materials
to achieve the required L10 -Fe(Co)Pt microstructure.51,52 Nanocomposite FePt:SiO2 lms have been
fabricated by annealing the as-deposited FePt/SiO2
multilayers at high temperatures.53 These lms
consist of high-anisotropy L10 -FePt particles embedded in a SiO2 matrix. The coercivity in the
range from 2 to 8 kOe and grain size of 10 nm or less
are highly dependent on the annealing temperature
and SiO2 concentration. The nanostructured FePt:
B2O3 lms with average grain sizes from 4 nm to
17 nm were obtained by similar methods.54,55 The
c-axis of the FePt grains with a nearly perfect (001)
orientation can be obtained, resulting in perpendicularly oriented nanocomposite lm with a high
anisotropy constant of 3:5  10 7 erg/cm3. Figure 10
shows the XRD patterns of [Fe/Pt/B2O3]n lms
annealed at 550  C.55 One can see that the relative
intensity of the (111) peak decreases when the
initial B2O3 layer increases. The (111) peak nearly
disappears and the (00n) peaks become dominant at

Fig. 10. XRD patterns of [Fe(3 )/Pt(4 )/B2O3(x )]n lms


annealed at 550  C for 30 min. (a) x 2 , n 10; (b) x 4 ,
n 9; (c) x 8 , n 7; and (d) x 12 , n 6. Insets are
XRD patterns of the corresponding as-deposited lms.55

x  8 , indicating the alignment of the c-axis of


FePt grains along the normal direction. Further
experimental studies and ab initio calculations also
indicate that the B2O3 matrix results in strain on
FePt grains that changes the c=a ratio and thus
magnetic properties such as Curie temperature.56 In
addition, Al2O3 and ZrO2 were used to control
the grain size and intergrain interaction of L10 Fe(Co)Pt lms.57,58 Strong perpendicular anisotropy, adjustable coercivity, and ne grain size suggest
that oxide addition can play a signicant role in
reducing the exchange coupling interaction between
magnetic grains.
In previous studies, Ag underlayer can induce
(001)-oriented L10 -Fe(Co)Pt lms and nonmagnetic
C-doping can adjust particle size and intergranular
exchange coupling. It is well known that the ideal
PMR media should have the perfect perpendicular
orientation, small and isolated grains, suitable coercivity, and low media noise. Based on the above
ideas, we proposed a novel triple material system of
[CoPt/C]n/Ag/glass lms prepared by magnetron
sputtering and post-annealing.59 It is found that the
oriented growth of L10 -CoPt lms is strongly
inuenced by both Ag underlayer thickness and C
content. A nearly perfect (001) texture and a high
perpendicular magnetic anisotropy can be obtained
in the [CoPt/C]5/Ag lms. Xu et al. also prepared
(001)-oriented [C/CoPt/Ag]5 lms60 and further
Ag/[CoPt/C]5/Ag lms with Ag as the underlayer
and top layer.61 Figure 11 shows the hysteresis loops
of the samples with dierent structures.61 Sample C
of Ag(5 nm)/[CoPt(3 nm)/C(3 nm)]5/Ag(5 nm) lm
has a very large perpendicular coercivity of
856 kA m 1 (10.7 kOe) and a very low parallel coercivity of 63 kA m 1 (0.8 kOe), which is consistent
with the XRD result showing the high intensity
(001) and (002) peaks of L10 -CoPt. The strain energy caused by the Ag underlayer together with the
diusion of Ag and C atoms results in the enhancement of the degree of chemical ordering and
the development of the (001) texture for L10 -CoPt
lms. Similarly, Chen et al. also prepared FePt-C
lms with high coercivity, (001) texture, and small
grain size on MgO/CrRu/glass substrate by
cosputtering FePt and carbon at 350  C, in which
MgO underlayer is used to induce the ordering of
FePt at low temperatures.62 It is clear that nonmagnetic isolation combined with underlayer is one
of the eective methods to obtain L10 -Fe(Co)Pt
with (001) texture.

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

Fig. 11. Hysteresis loops of samples with dierent structures before (insets) and after annealing at 600  C. Here  represents out-ofplane hysteresis loops and represents in-plane ones.61

3.2. Percolated perpendicular media


Dierent from the GPM, a so-called PPM consisting
of fully exchanged coupled grains with densely distributed nonmagnetic pinning sites, is proposed
theoretically by Zhu et al. to reduce the transition
noise.6365 Figure 12 shows the illustration of transition boundaries for the GPM and PPM.64 Obviously, transition jitter noise is dominated by the
grain size and size distribution for GPM. If the pinning sites are distributed more densely than that of
the grains in GPM, the resulting recorded transition
boundaries would be signicantly less irregular, as
shown in the right picture. Consequently, transition

jitter noise would be signicantly reduced in PPM,


while the ferromagnetic exchange coupling between
the grains ensures sucient thermal stability. A
comprehensive micromagnetic simulation study has
shown that the medium transition noise can be optimized with a moderate exchange coupling constant.
The switching time of the percolated medium is
smaller than 1 ns even with low switching eld and
small damping constant.66 Therefore, PPM may oer
better recording properties over the present GPM in
improving the SNR of the perpendicular media.
Based on this model, the rst PPM has been
reported in hcp CoPt-SiO2 thin lms by the alternate sputtering of CoPt and SiO2 targets. Desired

Fig. 12. Illustration of transition boundaries for the present GPM and PPM. The white dots in the PPM medium indicates
nonmagnetic columnar grains which act as domain wall pinning sites.64
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F. Wang, H. Xing & X. Xu

Fig. 13. Plan-view TEM image of CoPtSiO2 and FePtMgO thin lms. (a) As-deposited CoPtSiO2 lm; (b) annealed CoPtSiO2
lm; (c) (FePt)(MgO)/Pt/Cr lm and (d) FePt/Pt/Cr trilayer lm.67,68

CoPt-SiO2 PPM microstructure was obtained upon


post-deposition annealing.65,67 Figure 13 shows
the TEM images of CoPt-SiO2 and (FePt)(MgO)/
Pt/Cr thin lms.67,68 The plan-view image of asdeposited CoPt-SiO2 lm [Fig. 13(a)] has a microstructure similar to conventional GPM. The planview microstructure of the annealed sample is shown
in Fig. 13(b). The magnetic grains are magnetically
interconnected, while the oxide forms spherical
particles in the grain boundaries of the lm. The
oxide phase pins the magnetic domain walls, hindering their motion and hence producing increased
coercivity. Moreover, Sun et al. prepared the
percolated perpendicular FePtMgO lms by conventional magnetron sputtering.68 Magnetic measurements demonstrate that the coercivity of the
magnetic lm drastically increases from 2.1 to
3.6 kOe as the MgO content is increased from 0 vol.
% to 0.15 vol.%. Here MgO is present as crystalline
dots that are uniformly precipitated in the FePt
matrix, which can be conrmed by comparing
Figs. 13(c) and 13(d). The MgO dots serve as pinning sites of the domain wall and enhance perpendicular coercivity.

In order to form the PPM with evenly distributed


pinning centers, Lai et al. proposed a simple route to
fabricate PPM, where the Co/Pt multilayers were
deposited onto anodized alumina oxide (AAO)
substrates utilizing pores as pinning sites.6971
Coercivity, domain size, and switching eld can
be engineered by controlling pore density. Figure 14
shows the MFM/SEM images and corresponding
hysteresis loops of (Co/Pt)/Si lm and (Co/Pt)/
AAO/Si lms with dierent pore density.71 It is
found that the perpendicular coercivity increases
linearly with increasing pore density due to the
pinning eect imposed by the pores, which is consistent with theoretical calculation for PPM. A
better tolerance to switching-eld distributions can
thus be expected, which may help to achieve a high
SNR. In addition, Schulze et al. obtained a similar
result in the Co/Pt multilayers deposited onto
nanoperforated ZrO2 membrane.72
Taken together, these domain wall pinning sites
can be either nonmagnetic oxides or physical voids
or both of them. All previous theoretical studies on
PPM were done on exchange coupled magnetic
lms with holes acting as pinning sites. However,

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(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

Fig. 14. MFM and SEM images of (Co/Pt)/Si (a), (Co/Pt)/AAO/Si lms with pore density of 3:3  10 1 cm 2 (b), and
11:6  10 10 cm 2 (c), (d) is the corresponding out-of-plane and in-plane hysteresis loops of (a) and (c).71

magnetic nanodots may be present in the holes, and


thus the magnetic interactions in such systems are
more complicated. Therefore, Schulze et al. carried
out a series of micromagnetic simulations to understand the modication of the pinning strength of
domain walls due to the magnetic interaction between nanodots and the surrounding lm.72 A
comparison of magnetic domain wall pinning in
PPM systems with and without nanodots is given in
Fig. 15. The simulation data shows that the domain
wall pinning behavior strongly depends on the exchange coecient Aint . When Aint 0 (no exchange

coupling between lm and nanodots), the depinning


eld (Hd is the same as the system without nanodots. The magnetic state of the nanodots is not affected by the domain wall motion in the surrounding
lm. As Aint is increased from 0 to 1  10 6 ergs/cm,
a larger Hd is required as the nanodots stabilizes the
pinned domain wall. The dierence in morphology
prohibits a domain wall motion, as shown in the
right column of Fig. 15(b). The pinning strength is
determined not only by the geometrical properties of
the template but is also aected by the exchange
coupling between the lm and the nanodots in the

Fig. 15. (a) Initial magnetization states for two types of PPM, (b) domain wall displacement in an increasing eld H. The
magnetization states in (b) correspond to the same eld step H H  Hd .72
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F. Wang, H. Xing & X. Xu

system. However, the possibility of controlled pinning of magnetic domain walls at even smaller
length scales, as required for storage densities beyond 10 Tbit/in.2, remains an open question.

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3.3. Bit patterned media


To achieve ultrahigh areal density, BPM have been
proposed by Chou and Krauss73,74 to reduce or
eliminate transition noise without a loss of thermal
stability. Figure 16 shows the comparison between
conventional media and BPM.75 Compared to the
conventional granular media, BPM consist of periodic magnetic nanodot arrays, where each dot can
be regarded as a separately recorded magnetic bit,
which can eectively enhance the SNR of perpendicular recording media.76,77 However, one of the
main challenges is to obtain the smallest possible
feature size for ultrahigh areal density. To date,
there are several methods to realize BPM. The most
common approach is top-down physical fabrication
technologies,78,79 in which the magnetic nanoarrays
are obtained by lithographic patterning, ion milling,
or focused ion beam (FIB). However, there are some
limitations of such techniques, including the
high production cost and low throughput, as well as
the maximum achievable areal density.

In view of the drawbacks of top-down approaches, some bottom-up chemical template methods
were used to prepare BPM,80,81 for which the bits
are formed by electrochemical deposition or sputtering using the self-organized templates. A pioneering work was done by Kim et al. to push the
limit of the areal density of the magnetic nanodot
array.82 Ordered FePt nanodot arrays with a perfect perpendicular easy axis were deposited by
magnetron sputtering into AAO templates followed by a rapid thermal annealing. Figure 17
shows the SEM images, XRD pattern, and hysteresis loops of annealed FePt nanodots array.82
FePt nanodots with diameter of 18 nm and periodicity of 25 nm have been fabricated, resulting
in an areal density exceeding 1 Tbit/in.2. Rapid
thermal annealing converts the disordered fcc to
(001)-oriented L10 -FePt nanodot arrays with perpendicular anisotropy and large coercivity. L10 Fe(Co)Pt nanowires and nanorods were also prepared in AAO templates by electrochemistry
followed by annealing.83,84 These studies show that
self-organized templates are low-cost with high
uniformity and easily controllable structural parameters. In particular, for AAO templates, not only
the diameter and density can be adjusted, but also
the template can withstand high temperature of

Fig. 16. Comparison between conventional media and BPM.75


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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

Fig. 17. SEM images, XRD pattern, and hysteresis loops of annealed FePt nanodots array with dierent templates.82

650  C,85 which is favorable in fabricating L10 Fe(Co)Pt patterned media. However, it is hard to
obtain templates with small pore sizes less than
10 nm and thin pore wall less than 5 nm. It is thus
unfavorable to realize ultrahigh density L10 -FePtbased BPM.
In addition, the block copolymer template is used
to prepare BPM. Naito et al. combined a diblock
copolymer template to fabricate a long-range ordered CoPt patterned media with 40 nm sized dots,
where single magnetic domains with an almost
perpendicular orientation were obtained in each

magnetic dot.81,86 Recently, Zhu et al. obtained the


nanoscale CoPtSiO2 magnetic media with highcoercivity using self-assembling block copolymers as
an etch-mask.87 Figure 18 is the TEM image of
template CoPtSiO2 magnetic media and EDS integrated intensity maps of Co, Pt and Ru for one
grain. Clearly, the CoPt magnetic grains are surrounded by the lighter-appearing amorphous SiO2.
The average grain size of the CoPt grains is found to
be 16.2 nm with a standard deviation of 11%. As
seen from EDS mapping, the CoPt grain is also
clearly outlined, and it has grown on top of the

Fig. 18. TEM image of template CoPtSiO2 magnetic media and EDS integrated intensity maps of Co, Pt and Ru for one grain.87
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exchange decoupling, writing information on L10 Fe(Co)Pt media is still a challenge due to its large
Hc and therefore requires a very high writing eld.
To overcome this problem, researchers are focusing
on the development of new recording paradigm.
A number of advanced approaches such as texturetilting-assisted media, domain-wall-assisted media,
and energy-assisted magnetic recording were proposed to reduce writing eld of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt-based
PMR media. Here we will briey review the progress
of texture-tilting-assisted magnetic recording media
and domain-wall-assisted magnetic recording media
by manipulating the structures and magnetic
properties of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt materials.
Fig. 19. The schematic drawing of EMP process: (1) L10 -FePt
continuous layer was deposited on the substrate, (2) mask layer
RuSiO2 with a ne granular structure was deposited on the
FePt layer, (3) the SiO2 of mask layer was removed using a
reactive ion etching process (RIE), (4) the Ru dots array pattern was transferred to FePt layer using a RIE process.88

dome. The SiO2 is in-between the CoPt grains and


in the trenches dened by the Pt domes.
Recently, Wang et al. proposed a nanopatterning
process named as the embedded mask patterning
(EMP) to prepare FePt recording media, as shown
in Fig. 19.88 The mean size of FePt grain with 4.6 nm
can be obtained, and the center to center distance is
only 6.3 nm. The FePt grain size and packing density can be adjusted and optimized by changing the
sputtering conditions of the embedded mask layer.
This EMP process is compatible with today's media
manufacturing line because each step could be
completed in vacuum without taking the disc out of
the chamber. Therefore, it provides an eective
method to fabricate FePt BPM with low cost.
Comparing the advantages and disadvantages
among the above-mentioned GPM, PPM and BPM,
it is clear that BPM is a better choice to obtain high
SNR due to the weak transition noise than GPM
and PPM. However, there are some diculties and
challenges to realize BPM, in particular the diculty in fabricating ordered magnetic nanoarrays
with ultrahigh density at a reasonable cost. This
should be the future direction if BPM is to be used in
the next generation recording media.

4. Approaches to Promoting Writability


Even if L10 -Fe(Co)Pt media could be tailored to
achieve the desired grain size, distribution, and

4.1. Texture-tilting-assisted magnetic


recording
Texture-tilting-assisted magnetic recording is a recording scheme, in which the magnetic recording is
accomplished by tilting the easy magnetization axis
that depends on the crystallographic orientation of
the magnetic material comprising the recording
medium. Tilted magnetic media with easy axis tilting of 45  was rst proposed by Gao et al.89,90 and
realized by experiments by Wanget al.91,92 It allows
reducing the switching eld of high Ku media,
thereby leading to an improvement in the writability. Figure 20 shows the schematic of the tilted
magnetic media with a single-pole writing head, and
a plot of the normalized switching eld versus the
tilting angle.93 Obviously, three advantages can be
obtained by this design. First, the minimum
switching eld (Hs ) resulted from titling the easyaxis direction is only a half of what is required in
perpendicular media with a tilting angle of zero.
Second, a much better tolerance of switching-eld
distribution can be achieved. Third, a much faster
magnetization switching speed can be realized when
compared to the untilted perpendicular media.94
The areal density of tilted media could be more than
62% higher than that of traditional perpendicular
media if Ku 7  10 6 erg/cm3. Therefore, tilting
the easy magnetization axis in magnetic recording
media is becoming one of the eective methods to
improve the writability without compromising on its
thermal stability.
Up to now, two main methods have been proposed to fabricate the tilted media: one is the articial-tilted easy magnetization axis obtained by
oblique surface fabrication method; another is

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

(a)

(b)

Fig. 20. (a) Schematic illustration of the tilted magnetic media with a single-pole writing head, (b) normalized switching eld
(Hs =Hk ; Hk , magnetic anisotropy eld) versus the angle () between the external eld and easy axis of a grain exhibiting uniform
magnetization reversal.93

natural-tilted easy magnetization axis achieved by


controlling the relative textures. The rst articialtilted CoCrPt recording media was fabricated by
combining the oblique sputtering and collimated
sputtering by Wang's group.91 Similarly, L10 -FePt
nanoparticles with articial-tilted c-axis were
assembled onto MgO (110) substrates with selforganized grooves, where the c-axis of L10 -FePt
nanoparticle is tilted an angle of 45  from the substrate normal.95 L10 -FePt lms with dierent easyaxis orientations also can be deposited onto the
pyramid-type Si substrates.96 Therefore, the use of
preprocessed substrates and oblique sputtering
methods are favorable for the fabrication of articial-tilted recording media. However, the oblique
incidence approach may cause a large angular dispersion around the tilted preferred orientation.
Albrecht et al. fabricated Co/Pd magnetic multilayers with articial-tilted easy-axis through the
curved surface of spherical nanoparticles.97 The
minimum Hc appears at 45  between the applied
eld and lm normal, which is similar to the simulated results of tilted media.89 The nanostructures
fabricated by this method are monodisperse, single
domain, and uniform magnetic anisotropy, which
are expected to provide higher density, higher
thermal stability, and faster switching when compared to conventional PMR media.
To overcome the large angular dispersion caused
by the preparation process of articial-tilted media,

natural-tilted textures with tilted easy magnetization axis, such as (101) or (111) textures of
L10 -FePt, can be used as tilted media, wherein
the easy magnetization axis is directly oriented by
36  45  with respect to the medium surface normal.
Natural-tilted media has the similar advantages
with the articial-tilted media.98,99 High-anisotropy
L10 -CoPt or L10 -FePt lms having natural-tilted
(111) texture have been reported.100,101 Room-temperature angular remanence measurements (ARM)
of L10 -CoPt were carried out in order to determine
the geometrical arrangement of the easy axis in the
lm, as shown in Fig. 21.100 The ARM curves provided the evidence of four out-of-plane maxima at
  36   and 144  , within both the (110)
and the ( 110) planes. The maximum coercivities
( 4.8 kOe) were observed, when the eld was applied along each maxima direction of the ARM
curves [Fig. 21(c)]. The observed behavior is consistent with the presence of four easy axes with
mutually orthogonal in-plane projections, symmetrically tilted at an angle of 36  with respect to the
lm plane. Such methods can result in approximately 75% reduction of the writing eld without a
loss of thermal stability.
Therefore, both the articial and naturally-tilted
media play a certain role in improving the writability of PMR without decreasing its thermal
stability. However, the articial-tilted media can
negatively inuence the magnetic properties due to

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F. Wang, H. Xing & X. Xu

(a)

(b)

(c)
Fig. 21. ARM curves in the planes of the MgO substrate: (a) ( 110) and (b) (001), (c) schematic illustration of the four tilted easy
axis model.100

the increased roughness, stress and shape anisotropy


eects, and the naturally-tilted media has an axial
distribution of the easy magnetization directions. It
is therefore a great challenge to design a head capable of generating a uniform tilted eld, which
limits their practical applications in magnetic recording media. Therefore, some new technologies
are still required to realize the high writability of
L10 -FePt-based recording media.

4.2. Domain-wall-assisted recording


Another way to reduce the switching eld is domainwall-assisted recording, including exchange-spring
(ES), exchange coupled composite (ECC), and exchange coupled graded (ECG) recording media. All
of them are composed of hard magnetic layer and

soft magnetic layer, which are coupled by sharp or


graded interfaces, as shown in Fig. 22.102 The hard
layer with high Ku provides a high energy barrier to
maintain high thermal stability, while the soft layer
with high saturation magnetization switches at low
applied eld. A domain wall at the hard/soft interface provides an additional exchange eld on the
hard magnetic layer, which helps to reduce the
switching eld of the recording media. Thus, the
soft/hard composite media can improve the writability, while still maintaining a high thermal stability. This idea is very attractive because the
method for preparing the media is relatively easy
when compared to that of the above-mentioned
texture-tilting-assisted media.
The exchange spring scheme was introduced in
PMR media in 2005 by Suess.103,104 The soft

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

Fig. 22. Schematic illustration of the domain-wall-assisted


recording.102

magnetic layer is directly coupled with the hard


magnetic layer by the soft/hard interface in exchange-spring media. The simulated magnetic reversal process and hysteresis loop are shown in
Fig. 23.105 It can be seen that the soft layer can help
the hard layer to reverse its magnetization direction
by exerting an additional demagnetization eld. The
switching eld of the soft/hard bilayer is determined
by the pinning eld at the soft/hard interface,
Hp

1 2Khard  Ksoft

;
4
Jhard

where Khard and Ksoft are the anisotropies of hard


layer and soft layer, respectively. Js is the saturation
magnetization of the hard layer. The switching eld
can be reduced to one quarter of that of the hard
layer when Ksoft is taken to be zero. When soft-layer
anisotropy is about one fth of the hard-layer anisotropy, the smallest switching eld, which is about
one fth of that of the hard layer, can be
obtained.106 The inuences of soft layer thickness on
nucleation eld, coercivity and the magnetization
reversal mechanism of exchange spring media were
analyzed by micromagnetic simulations.107109 It is
an eective method to improve the writability of
perpendicular recording media.
Based on the above-mentioned theoretical studies, L10 -FePt/Fe exchange spring lms were successfully prepared by Casoli et al.110,111 In order to
obtain an ordered L10 -FePt hard layer, FePt layer
was rst deposited onto MgO (001) substrate at
high temperature, and then Fe soft layer was deposited onto the L10 -FePt hard layer at room temperature to directly form L10 -FePt/Fe exchange
spring lms. High anisotropy perpendicular systems
with moderate coercivity can be easily obtained by
controlling the thickness of the Fe soft layer.112
Moreover, the control of the interface morphology
can adjust the magnetic regime from rigid magnet to
exchange-spring magnet because of the hard/soft
interlayer coupling.
Victora et al. theoretically proposed the ECC
media for the perpendicular recording during the

Fig. 23. Magnetic reverse process and hysteresis loop of the exchange spring media.105
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F. Wang, H. Xing & X. Xu

Fig. 24. Exchange coupling dependence of remnant coercivity


and thermal stability of [Co/PdSiO]16 /PdSi/FeSiO lms with
dierent PdSi interlayer thickness.115

same period ES media were investigated.113,114 ECC


media is based on a structure with nonmagnetic
interlayer between the soft layer and the hard layer,
by which the exchange interaction between the
layers is coupled indirectly. The switching eld is
one half of that of the hard layer according to the
ratio between the thermal barrier of the media and
its switching eld  2E=Hs  Ms  V ,114 in
which E and Hs are the thermal barrier E
1
2 Kh  V is the switching eld, respectively. Wang
et al. rst carried out the experimental work on such
media with CoPd or CoCrPt as hard layers.115,116
Figure 24 shows the exchange coupling dependence
of remnant coercivity and thermal stability of the
[Co/PdSiO]16 /PdSi/FeSiO lms on dierent PdSi
interlayer thickness.115 Adding nonmagnetic PdSi
layer between hard and soft layers is very helpful for
further reducing the coercivity. However, if it is too
thick, the coercivity would increase again because of
the absence of exchange coupling between soft and
hard layers. They also found that the thermal stability factor Ku V =KB T remains nearly unchanged
with changing the thickness of the intermediate
layer. Clearly, the coercivity can be tuned by controlling the interlayer coupling strength, while their
thermal stability is still maintained. Furthermore,
similar results were obtained in hcp-CoCrPt ECC
media with nonmagnetic Pt and Pd layers as
interlayers.117120 In addition, Tang et al. employed
magnetic interlayers to adjust the exchange coupling strength between the soft and hard layers.
Besides thickness, the saturation magnetization of
the interlayer can be used to control the exchange

coupling strengthen between the two magnetic layers, leading to the reduction in coercivity of the ECC
media.121,122 In a word, ECC media can further
improve the writability compared to the corresponding ES media.
On the basis of the studies of ES and ECC media,
researchers proposed theoretically ECG media with
a multilayer structure,123 where the anisotropy
varies layer by layer from the hard to soft layer.
Thermal stability of graded media is dependent on
the anisotropy of the hardest layer. If the number of
layers in exchange spring media is increased from
two layers to N layers to form the multilayer
structure of ECG media, the anisotropy dierence of
adjacent layers will be decreased, resulting in a
smaller pinning eld at the interface,
Hp

1 2K n1  K n
1
2Khard

;
4
Js
4N  1 Js

where Kn1 , Kn and Khard are the anisotropies of


the two adjacent layers and hardest layer, respectively. Js is the saturation magnetization of the
hardest layer. The switching eld is decreased with
increasing the numbers of layers. As the multilayers
are extended to graded media with continuously
varying anisotropy,p
the
pinning eld can be rewrit
ten as: Hp 2=Js AKhard =tG , in which A and tG
are the exchange coecient and gradient thickness,
respectively. Obviously, the switching eld can be
decreased to an arbitrarily small value if the gradient thickness tG is large enough.
The rst epitaxial L10 -FePt/Fe graded media
were fabricated by depositing a part of the Fe layer
at elevated temperature.124,125 A graded interface is
formed between L10 -FePt phase and Fe phase due
to the interdiusion between layers at high temperature, which in turn results in a continuous
change in magnetocrystalline anisotropy. This is the
main reason for coercivity reduction compared with
the corresponding one with sharp interface. Moreover, L10 -CoPtTa2O5 and FePtTiO2 exchange
coupled multilayer media with well isolated magnetic grains were fabricated by adjusting Ta2O5 or
TiO2 content layer-by-layer.126,127 In order to
control the ordering degree and anisotropy gradient, the FePtC graded lms can be fabricated
by varying the substrate temperature layer by
layer.128,129
It is well known that higher substrate temperature provides kinetic energy for the interdiusion
between the soft and hard layers.130 Therefore, we

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

(a) Bilayer lm

(b) Sandwich-like lm

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Fig. 25. Schematic of the three structures before and after annealing.102

proposed using post-annealing method to form


exchange coupled graded media, which can be a very
eective method for realizing interdiusion between
dierent layers.131 Graded lms should be easily
obtained by changing the annealing parameters,
such as temperature, heating rate, and time.132,133
Our group combined sputtering and post-annealing
treatment to fabricate a series of L10 -FePt graded
lms with continuously varying anisotropy on glass
substrates. Figure 25 shows the schematic of three
structures from bilayer to multilayers before and
after annealing.102 The graded thickness can be
tuned by the structure design and annealing temperature of the multilayers, in which the nonmagnetic layers are used to adjust the anisotropy
distribution.
Figures 26(a) and 26(b) show the compositional
depth proles of FeAu/FePt lms before and after
annealing at 550  C. Clearly, the graded thickness
can be increased due to the interdiusion when postannealing was carried out.134 In comparison to the
lms with sharp interfaces, the graded interface is
more favorable for coercivity reduction.135 Moreover, the graded L10 -FePt:C/Fe lms with a continuous variation in anisotropy were realized
experimentally by varying the C concentration in
the FePt hard layer. Nonmagnetic C layer plays
an important role in tailoring the gradient of
anisotropy and weakening the intergranular exchange interaction.136,137 We also simulated the
magnetization reversal process of the graded lm by
the object oriented micromagnetic framework
(OOMMF) software.138 Figures 26(c) and 26(d)
show the simulated hysteresis loops and magnetization reversal process of the multilayer graded
lms. The coercivity of the multilayer graded lm
decreases gradually with the decrease of the Ku

dierence between Fe soft layer and FePt hard


layer. The thermal stability of the graded media is
only determined by the anisotropy of the hardest
part of the media. The magnetization reversal process agrees with the domain-wall-assisted reversal
mechanism. Thereafter, L10 -FePt(hard)/CoPt(soft)
graded lms were fabricated by post-annealing
based on the dierent ordering temperatures between L10 -FePt and L10 -CoPt.139 Zha et al. prepared a series of FePtCu graded lm by adopting
post-annealing method.140,141 Lee et al. also demonstrated that the pinning eld is proportional to
the Ku dierence of the hard and soft layers,142
which is in agreement with our results.138 Furthermore, the pinning eld can be eciently decreased
after an additional annealing step, which is due to a
heat-induced phase transformation of iron oxide
present at the interface between the hard and soft
layers. Therefore, post-annealing treatment is considered to be a feasible approach to prepare ECG
media with continuously varying anisotropy. Suess
et al. predicted that the graded media should be
capable of ultrahigh-density recording of up to
510 Tbit/in.2, if the grain size is assumed to be
3.2 nm.7 In short, graded media should be a more
eective approach than ECC and ES to improve
writability of L10 -FePt recording media.
Compared with texture-tilting-assisted media,
the domain-wall-assisted media can control the coercivity more easily by optimizing the structures of
the lms. Also the anisotropy gradient and intergrain interactions can be eectively adjusted by
nonmagnetic additives to improve the SNR. Given
these considerations, the domain-wall-assisted
media, especially ECG media, is more eective for
promoting the writability without the loss of thermal stability.

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(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

Fig. 26. (a) and (b) Compositional depth proles of FeAu/FePt lms before and after annealing at 550  C, (c) and (d) simulated
hysteresis loops and magnetization reversal process of the multilayer graded lms.134,138

5. Balance of the Trilemma Issues for


L10 -Fe(Co)Pt Perpendicular
Recording Media
To achieve ultrahigh areal density for L10 -Fe(Co)Pt
media, several proposals have been addressed so far
to solve the trilemma problems, including the abovementioned PPM, BPM, tilted media, domain-wallassisted media. However, either of them alone may
not be enough to address completely the trilemma
issues of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt. Fortunately, the above
reviewed approaches do not necessarily have to be
mutually exclusive. In order to write information on
such high anisotropy L10 -Fe(Co)Pt, some form of
assisted recording that can be switched at a suciently low applied eld have been used on BPM to
balance the trilemma issues. If L10 -Fe(Co)Pt lms
with ECC structure is combined with BPM to form
ECC/BPM system, L10 -Fe(Co)Pt hard section and
soft section in ECC structure can ensure the high

thermal stability and low write eld, while the bit


patterning can provide the high signal-to-noise
ratio.
Several groups have carried out relevant works on
ECC/BPM. McCallum et al. prepared L10 -FePtbased ECC/BPM with 180 nm pillars on a 300 nm
pitch representing a density of about 8 Gbit/in.2 by
e-beam lithography into a hard mask and subsequent ion milling.143 A 2.5-fold Hc reduction is
obtained in this combination system. Moreover, the
switching eld distribution (SFD) is signicantly
reduced in ECC/BPM structures compared to that
of the FePt single layer BPM system. The reduction
in Hc and SFD observed experimentally in these
structures is consistent with micromagnetic simulations that conrm a vertically incoherent pillar
reversal from the top to the bottom. The magnetization reversal of an areal density of 1.5 Tbit/in.2
ECC/BPM was simulated.144 The magnetic anisotropy distribution of ECC/BPM has a direct

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Overcoming the Trilemma Issues of Ultrahigh Density PMR

inuence on the switching eld distribution.


L10 -FePt ECC/BPM nanopillar media were also
fabricated by continuously varying the substrate
temperature and then followed by electron-beam
lithography and ion milling.145 Moreover, FePtbased ECC/BPM with 31 nm bit size and 37 nm
pitch size were fabricated using diblock copolymer
lithography on 3 inch wafer by Wang et al.146,147
L10 -CoPt/Ni composite nanowires with the diameter of 25 nm and the length of 80 nm were fabricated
successfully on AAO templates by electrochemical
deposition and post-annealing.148 L10 -CoPt/Ni soft/
hard composite nanowires exhibit an intermediate
coercivity of 1.96 kOe between those of CoPt array
(10.97 kOe) and Ni array (242 Oe). Such a large
reduction in coercivity leads to easier data writing,
showing a potential application of AAO templates
in self-assembled media. Similarly, well-coupled L10 FePt/Fe and L10 -CoPt/FeCo composite nanotubes
have been prepared in AAO templates.149,150
Furthermore, Goll et al. reported the large-area
composite L10 -FePt/A1-FePt patterns fabricated
by ultraviolet nanoimprint lithography in combination with ICP reactive Ar-ion etching approach.142,151 It is clear that combination of ECC
and BPM is an attractive way to balance the
trilemma of PMR.
By now the exchange coupled graded media is
very eective in reducing the write eld among domain-wall-assisted media. Moreover, L10 -Fe(Co)Ptbased ECC/BPM combinations have made some

progress in recent years. Due to the advantages in


terms of ECG and ECC/BPM, introducing ECG
structure into BPM to form ECG/BPM structure
would be a promising media to pursue ultrahigh
areal density in the future. This can provide optimum balance for the trilemma of L10 -based magnetic recording media. In fact, Krone et al. have
simulated that the switching eld of graded patterns
can be successively decreased with increasing number of layers in the ECC stack.152 A route for narrowing the switching eld distribution of the bit
array is provided as well, which is vital for the applicability of the BPM concept in magnetic data
storage. Skomski et al. have theoretically investigated how the magnetization reversal processes in
graded recording media with columnar structure
aect the write eld and the areal density.153 By
using longer pillars, the write eld can be made
arbitrarily small. However, there is an optimum
length, beyond which writing becomes dicult
again.
Up to now, there is little attempt to make ECG/
BPM in experiments, due to the great challenge
associated with its fabrication. Combining ECG
with self-organized media might be a new route
to overcome such challenges. Recently, Goll and
Bublat provided a review on L10 -FePt-based ECC/
BPM, and the development of the recording density
in conventional and advanced magnetic hard disk
drives are shown in Fig. 27.154,155 It is unlikely that
the trilemma issue can be addressed by the material

Fig. 27. Development of the recording density in conventional and advanced magnetic hard disk drives.155
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F. Wang, H. Xing & X. Xu

engineering of the media alone. Besides ECC, energy


assisted recording such as HAMR and MAMR156158
is one of the promising schemes to combine with
BPM in order to overcome the writing eld limit
of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt-based media. These combined
approaches may very well be what are ultimately
needed to push the areal density towards 10 Tbit/in2.
However, there are still some signicant engineering
challenges that need to be resolved.159,160 Although
many attempts have been made to balance the trilemma of L10 -Fe(Co)Pt, there is still some technical
problems to restrict their industrial application as
the next generation of recording media, especially
the grain size. In short, coordinated eorts from
both the materials engineering and technologies are
needed to balance the trilemma issues for future
PMR.

6. Summary
In summary, many proposals have been made on
media materials engineering for L10 -Fe(Co)Pt in
order to balance the trilemma of perpendicular recording media. For the thermal stability, stressassisted growth and metal-doping methods are used
to reduce the ordering temperature of L10 -Fe(Co)
Pt lm and obtain the perfect fct (001) texture that
ensure high thermal stability of the media. For the
SNR, GPM, PPM and BPM were designed to enhance it from dierent levels. Among them, BPM is
considered to be the most promising scheme to realize high SNR without a loss of thermal stability.
For the writability, both texture-tilting-assisted
media and domain-wall-assisted media can realize
its improvement on materials engineering. In contrast, the domain-wall-assisted media, especially for
ECG media, is thought to be a more eective
approach. However, it is necessary to combine
some alternatives to balance the trilemma for
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt perpendicular recording media due
to the shortages of single technology. Based on the
progress of ECG and BPM, it is predicted that
L10 -Fe(Co)Pt based ECG/BPM should be one of
the most eective paths to balance the trilemma
from the materials design, which would open up
a new avenue to realize an areal density of
510 Tbit/in.2 in the coming years. Certainly, there
exists still a great challenge in production technology, needing a synergic advance on the key technologies of media and heads.

Acknowledgments
The authors would like to acknowledge the useful
discussions with Prof. Hao Zeng of University at
Bualo-SUNY and Prof. Dan Wei of Tsinghua
University. The work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant
Nos. 51025101, 51101095, 11274214, 61434002), the
863 Program (Grant No. 2014AA032904), Foundations from the Ministry of Education of China
(Grant Nos. IRT1156, 20121404130001), Shanxi
Province Foundations (Grant Nos. [2012]12, [2012]
10, [2013]9).

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