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Ferromagnetism in ultrathin double perovskite La2NiMnO6 thin films

Double perovskite oxides with chemical formula A2BB’O6 possess the prototypical perovskite structure integrated by two different cations (B, B’) ordered in a rock-salt fashion. In the R2NiMnO6 (RNMO) family, R being a rare-earth cation, the positive superexchange interaction between the Ni2+ and Mn4+ electronic states results in the coexistence of ferromagnetic order with insulating behavior. La2NiMnO6 (LNMO), in particular, has a bulk ferromagnetic Curie temperature of circa 280 K. Although an insulating ferromagnetic oxide with near room temperature TC would be ideal for novel spintronic devices, only a few attempts of growing ultrathin LNMO films have been reported so far.

We grew LNMO films by radiofrequency off-axis magnetron sputtering and employed AFM, XRD and EDX-STEM for structural characterization. The results indicate high crystalline quality, sharp interfaces and minimal degree of antisite disorder. The valence state of the Ni and Mn ions has been also inferred by XAS and confirms the stabilization of Ni2+ and Mn4+ in our bulk-like films. SQUID magnetometry and element sensitive XMCD reveal that the ferromagnetic order of our films is robust against epitaxial strain and is retained down to very few unit cells. This is one important step towards the implementation of LNMO films in more complex multilayer geometries.