Applied Physics Letters

In-situ characterization of rapid crystallization of amorphous CoFeB electrodes in CoFeB/MgO/CoFeB junctions during thermal annealing

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We report the crystallization study of CoFeB/MgO/CoFeB magnetic tunnel junctions using in-situ, time-resolved synchrotron-based x-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy. It was found that the crystallization of amorphous CoFeB electrodes occurs on a time scale of seconds during the postgrowth high temperature annealing. The crystallization can be well fit by the Johnson-Mehl-Avrami model and the effective activation energy of the process was determined to be 150 kJ/mol. The solid-state epitaxy mode of CoFeB was found to involve separate crystallization at different locations followed by subsequent merging of small grains, instead of layer-by-layer growth of CoFeB film along the MgO template. © 2009 American Institute of Physics.