Journal of Physics Condensed Matter

Antiferromagnetic LaFeO3 thin films and their effect on exchange bias

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Antiferromagnetic (AFM) orthoferrites are interesting model systems for exploring the correlation between their crystalline and AFM domains and the resulting exchange bias when coupled to a ferromagnetic layer. In particular, LaFeO3 (LFO) has a Néel temperature, TN = 740K, which is the highest in the orthoferrite family. The recent developments of synchrotron radiation-based photoelectron emission microscopy (PEEM) have provided the possibility of studying AFM domain structures as well as the magnetic coupling between the AFM and the adjacent ferromagnetic (FM) layer, domain by domain. Thin films of LFO have proved excellent candidates for such studies because their AFM domains are well defined and large enough to be readily imaged by PEEM. This paper reviews the growth, structural and magnetic properties of LFO thin films as well as exchange coupling to a FM layer. The strong correlation between structural and AFM domains in this material allows us to investigate the exchange coupling as a function of the domain configuration, which can be changed by using different substrate material and substrate orientation. A significant increase of the exchange bias field by a factor of about 10 was obtained when LFO was diluted with Ni atoms in the volume part. In this sample, the structural domain boundary became corrugated due to substitutional defects. Our results indicate that the details of the precise domain boundary configuration strongly affect the exchange coupling. © 2008 IOP Publishing Ltd.