First-principles study of thin magnetic transition-metal silicide films on Si(001)

Research paper by Hua Wu, Peter Kratzer, Matthias Scheffler

Indexed on: 11 Sep '05Published on: 11 Sep '05Published in: Physics - Materials Science


In order to combine silicon technology with the functionality of magnetic systems, a number of ferromagnetic (FM) materials have been suggested for the fabrication of metal/semiconductor heterojunctions. In this work, we present a systematic study of several candidate materials in contact with the Si surface. We employ density-functional theory calculations to address the thermodynamic stability and magnetism of both pseudomorphic CsCl-like $M$Si ($M$=Mn, Fe, Co, Ni) thin films and Heusler alloy $M_2$MnSi ($M$=Fe, Co, Ni) films on Si(001). Our calculations show that Si-termination of the $M$Si films is energetically preferable during epitaxy since it minimizes the energetic cost of broken bonds at the surface. Moreover, we can explain the calculated trends in thermodynamic stability of the $M$Si thin films in terms of the $M$-Si bond-strength and the $M$ 3d orbital occupation. From our calculations, we predict that ultrathin MnSi films are FM with sizable spin magnetic moments at the Mn atoms, while FeSi and NiSi films are nonmagnetic. However, CoSi films display itinerant ferromagnetism. For the $M_2$MnSi films with Heusler-type structure, the MnSi termination is found to have the highest thermodynamic stability. In the FM ground state, the calculated strength of the effective coupling between the magnetic moments of Mn atoms within the same layer approximately scales with the measured Curie temperatures of the bulk $M_2$MnSi compounds. In particular, the Co$_2$MnSi/Si(001) thin film has a robust FM ground state as in the bulk, and is found to be stable against a phase separation into CoSi/Si(001) and MnSi/Si(001) films. Hence this material is of possible use in FM-Si heterojunctions and deserves further experimental investigations.