Thermal evolution of nanocrystalline co-sputtered Ni-Zr alloy films: Structural, magnetic and MD simulation studies

D Bhattacharya and TVC Rao and KG Bhushan and K Ali and A Debnath and S Singh and A Arya and S Bhattacharya and S Basu, JOURNAL OF ALLOYS AND COMPOUNDS, 649, 746-754 (2015).

DOI: 10.1016/j.jallcom.2015.07.220

Monophasic and homogeneous Ni10Zr7 nanocrystalline alloy films were successfully grown at room temperature by co-sputtering in an indigenously developed three-gun DC/RF magnetron sputtering unit. The films could be produced with long-range crystallographic and chemical order in the alloy, thus overcoming the widely acknowledged inherent proclivity of the glass forming Ni-Zr couple towards amorphization. Crystallinity of these alloys is a desirable feature with regard to improved efficacy in applications such as hydrogen storage, catalytic activity and nuclear reactor engineering, to name a few. Thermal stability of this crystalline phase, being vital for transition to viable applications, was investigated through systematic annealing of the alloy films at 473 K, 673 K and 923 K for various durations. While the films were stable at 473 K, the effect of annealing at 673 K was to create segregation into nanocrystalline Ni (superparamagnetic) and amorphous Ni + Zr (non-magnetic) phases. Detailed analyses of the physical and magnetic structures before and after annealing were performed through several techniques effectual in analyzing stratified configurations and the findings were all consistent with each other. Polarized neutron and X-ray reflectometry, grazing incidence x-ray diffraction, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy were used to gauge phase separation at nanometer length scales. SQUID based magnetometry was used to investigate macroscopic magnetic properties. Simulated annealing performed on this system using molecular dynamic calculations corroborated well with the experimental results. This study provides a thorough understanding of the creation and thermal evolution of a crystalline Ni-Zr alloy. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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