Dielectric Breakdown in Underoxidized Magnetic Tunnel Junctions: Dependence on Oxidation Time and Area

J. Ventura, R. Ferreira, J.B. Sousa, P.P. Freitas
2006 IEEE transactions on magnetics  
Magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) with partially oxidized 9 Å AlO_x-barriers were recently shown to have the necessary characteristics to be used as magnetoresistive sensors in high-density storage devices. Here we study dielectric breakdown in such underoxidized magnetic tunnel junctions, focusing on its dependence on tunnel junction area and oxidation time. A clear relation between breakdown mechanism and junction area is observed for the MTJs with the highest studied oxidation time: samples
more » ... th large areas fail usually due to extrinsic causes (characterized by a smooth resistance decrease at dielectric breakdown). Small area junctions fail mainly through an intrinsic mechanism (sharp resistance decrease at breakdown). However, this dependence changes for lower oxidation times, with extrinsic breakdown becoming dominant. In fact, in the extremely underoxidized magnetic tunnel junctions, failure is exclusively related with extrinsic causes, independently of MTJ-area. These results are related with the presence of defects in the barrier (weak spots that lead to intrinsic breakdown) and of metallic unoxidized Al nanoconstrictions (leading to extrinsic breakdown).
doi:10.1109/tmag.2006.879734 fatcat:vwor5fa76rf3bn4fodc4yrkeoq