Tunnelling in rare-earth nitride structures
GdN thin film device structures, including magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs), were grown by physical vapour deposition and their electrical properties were investigated. Growth compatibility between GdN and various contact metals (Al, Au, Gd and Nb) was assured using X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) techniques. I developed a photomask and lithographic process to isolate electrical behaviour perpendicular to the plane of the films. Al and Au were confirmed to make ohmic contact to GdN, while Gd and Nb both formed Schottky-like barriers at the interface with GdN. In MTJ structures, device electrical characteristics were dominated by tunnelling behaviour through the GaN barrier layer. The Simmons model was successfully applied to tunnelling measurements of Al/GdN/GaN/GdN/Gd structured MTJs to determine the barrier properties. MTJs grown with Al bottom contacts were grown with 1.5eV potential barrier height and 2.5 nm width. Finally, MTJs contacted with Nb exhibited a large magnetoresistance (> 500%), greater than GdN-based MTJs recorded in the literature [Warring et al. ”Magnetic Tunnel Junctions Incorporating a Near-Zero-Moment Ferromagnetic Semiconductor”, Phys. Rev. Appl., vol.6, p.044002, 2016].