Fabrication and crystallographic features of epitaxial NiMnGa ferromagnetic shape memory alloy thin films

Abstract : Epitaxial Ni-Mn-Ga thin films have attracted considerable attention, since they are promising candidates for magnetic sensors and actuators in micro-electro-mechanical systems. Comprehensive information on the microstructural and crystallographic features of the NiMnGa films and their relationship with the constraints of the substrate is essential for further property optimization. In the present work, epitaxial Ni-Mn-Ga thin films were produced by DC magnetron sputtering and then characterized by x-ray diffraction technique (XRD) and backscatter electron diffraction equipped in scanning electron microscope (SEM-EBSD). Epitaxial NiMnGa thin films with nominal composition of Ni50Mn30Ga20 and thickness of 1.5 µm were successfully fabricated on MgO monocrystalline substrate by DC magnetron sputtering, after the optimization of sputtering parameters such as sputtering power, substrate temperature and seed layer by the present work. XRD diffraction measurements demonstrate that the epitaxial NiMnGa thin films are composed of three phases: austenite, NM martensite and 7M martensite. With the optimized measurement geometries, maximum number of diffraction peaks of the concerning phases, especially of the low symmetrical 7M martensite, are acquired and analyzed. The lattice constants of all the three phases under the constraints of the substrate in the films are fully determined. These serve as prerequisites for the subsequent EBSD crystallographic orientation characterizations. SEM-EBSD in film depth analyses further verified the co-existence situation of the three constituent phases: austenite, 7M martensite and NM martensite. NM martensite is located near the free surface of the film, austenite above the substrate surface, and 7M martensite in the intermediate layers between austenite and NM martensite. Microstructure characterization shows that both the 7M martensite and NM martensite are of plate morphology and organized into two characteristic zones featured with low and high relative second electron image contrast. Local martensite plates with similar plate morphology orientation are organized into plate groups or groups or variant colonies. Further EBSD characterization indicates that there are four distinct martensite plates in each variant groups for both NM and 7M martensite. Each NM martensite plate is composed of paired major and minor lamellar variants in terms of their thicknesses having a coherent interlamellar interface, whereas, each 7M martensite plate contains one orientation variant. Thus, there are four orientation 7M martensite variants and eight orientation NM martensite variants in one variant group. According to the crystallographic orientation of martensites and the crystallographic calculation, for NM martensite, the inter-plate interfaces are composed of compound twins in adjacent NM plates. The symmetrically distribution of compound twins results in the long and straight plate interfaces in the low relative contrast zone. The asymmetrically distribution leads to the change of inter-plate interface orientation in the high relative contrast zone. For 7M martensite, both Type-I and Type-II twin interfaces are nearly perpendicular to the substrate surface in the low relative contrast zones. The Type-I twin pairs appear with much higher frequency, as compared with that of the Type-II twin pairs. However, there are two Type-II twin interface trace orientations and one Type-I twin interface trace orientation in the high relative contrast zones. The Type-II twin pairs are more frequent than the Type-I twin pairs. The inconsistent occurrences of the different types of twins in different zones are originated from the substrate constrain. The crystallographic calculation also indicates that the martensitic transformation sequence is from Austenite to 7M martensite and then transform into NM martensite (A->7M->NM). The present study intends to offer deep insights into the crystallographic features and martensitic transformation of epitaxial NiMnGa thin films
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Bo Yang. Fabrication and crystallographic features of epitaxial NiMnGa ferromagnetic shape memory alloy thin films. Other. Université de Lorraine, 2014. English. ⟨NNT : 2014LORR0193⟩. ⟨tel-01751139⟩

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