Novel Materials Synthesis for HAMR Plasmonics

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics


There is a current interest in HAMR (heat assisted magnetic recording) for magnetic hard disk drive technology, driven by the 21st century need for increased data storage. The integration of plasmonic materials into the recording heads to create a near field transducer (NFT) is the key component to transmit energy to the disk to locally raise the disk temperature, reducing the magnetic coercive field, and so facilitate HAMR. The obvious noble metal/alloy candidate materials for the plasmonic NFT currently lack the necessary thermal stability to provide a long-term solution. This project has the potential to look at novel ternary alloys exploiting either novel elements in the periodic table rarely used outside niche microelectronics, explore engineered layered metals for low-loss plasmonics or consider strategies to create refractory plasmonic materials without refractory metals by using advanced nanofabrication techniques for features of a similar dimension to the NFT. Advanced deposition techniques such as UHV sputtering and an optical metrology testing protocol developed by another CDT student are used to test the plasmonic properties of the materials, subjecting them to various process challenge protocols as well. The other Seagate CDT project: Bringing ab-initio design to the lab: design of new plasmonic materials, will be interacted with to help inform the research directions. Further technical direction and input will be provided via Seagate Technology. A key aspect to the project which has developed over the past year is focusing on the thermal stability of ZrN thin films (with CrRu seed layer) using in-situ heated ellipsometry, and other annealing protocols, at elevated temperatures.

Planned Impact

The development of a cohort of fifty young doctoral researchers who in the programme will acquire a unique set of technical abilities allied with working practice, managerial and enterprise skills.
The research to be undertaken by the cohort incorporates areas such as photonics, meta-materials, functional materials and plasmonics. The research programme is targeted at developing a suite of integrative technologies that address the requirements of heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). HAMR requires a highly manufacturable, rugged heterogeneous integration platform, encompassing semiconductor lasers, passive waveguides, rugged plasmonic devices and advanced magnetic materials. The successful development of HAMR will see a paradigm shift in the performance of data storage devices.
Advances in the above areas will see the CDT, supervisory staff and cohort develop a reputation and output profile that will lead to further basic research funding in the Universities and to the launch of academic careers for some of the cohort through attaining post-doctoral positions.

The CDT brings together key companies who could form a complete UK manufacturing supply chain for HAMR technology. These companies include as founder partners - IQE as a supplier of custom epitaxy, Oclaro for volume laser production and Seagate for volume manufacturing of magnetic recording heads.
The CDT will result in the development and adoption of this low-cost heterogeneous integration technology, a technology than can also be applied in multiple markets. Although the HAMR environment is particularly harsh, many other consumer and society driven applications (such as widely deployable high speed internet) also require operation in harsh environments. The technology developed here will allow migration away from traditional expensive solutions such as laser packaging in temperature stabilised, gold plated, hermetic boxes.

The Engagement & Outreach Committee of the CDT along with the leadership, supervisory staff and cohort will proactively engage with the wider society to raise awareness of the underpinning science and engineering. The CDT will demonstrate how it supports a high technology manufacturing supply chain in which UK activity has a global significance and brings benefit to a large part of society. Notwithstanding other commercial applications that our end-users have, we will be able to highlight how the integration of underpinning science and engineering lies at the core of much high technology.

Our key partner has a significant presence in the UK through employment of some 1500 people in manufacturing and R&D. The current operation is centred on a capital base of some £1.5B and contributes around £100M GVA p.a. to the UK economy. The societal need for increased data storage places this operation as a nexus of the global economy and consequently offers significant supply chain opportunity for the UK. The need to develop HAMR requires the development of the integration technology that lies at the core of our CDT. The outcomes of the CDT will inform future decisions that will underpin further corporate investment of £10M's to equip the partner and to recruit the necessary staff. We note that the key partner, in their letter of support, could absorb the entire cohort into employment over the next few years. Our other project partners will also benefit beyond HAMR. As examples; CST Global would apply novel lasers and integrated solutions to niche applications, Kelvin Nanotechnology will be able to exploit new integration expertise, OIPT need a pipeline of trained personnel that is currently not available in the UK, JEOL and FEI have interests in new imaging and metrology associated with new material and integration technologies. All the partners would benefit from a flow of PhD graduates trained in advanced material assessment.


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Description There has been a lot of progress in the synthesis of alternative plasmonic nitride materials on large area wafers.
Work from the award has been presented at international conferences (SPP9 and TMRC19).
Exploitation Route Further research into the area of alternative plasmonic nitrides.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics