J Magn Magn Mater

Asymmetric magnetic disorder observed in thermally activated magnetization reversal of exchange-biased IrMn/CoFe films

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We report an asymmetry of magnetic disorder in exchange-biased IrMn(t IrMn=5-20 nm)/CoFe(50 nm) films observed by means of a Kerr microscope, capable of direct domain observation. From the correlation between the magnetization half-reversal time and applied magnetic field, we find that the magnetization switching in all the films occurs via a thermally activated reversal mechanism for both branches of hysteresis loops. Surprisingly, in the forward branch reversal where the applied magnetic field is antiparallel to the direction of exchange-bias field, degree of magnetic disorder decreases as exchange-bias field increases, which is definitely contrasted with the case of backward branch reversal. This result is likely ascribed to the fact that the local values of exchange-bias field and coercive field are oppositely fluctuating with each other in the film. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.