We investigated the magnetic anisotropy energy of monatomic surface-step atoms in antiferromagnetic/ferromagnetic (AF/FM) epitaxial Mn/Co bilayers grown on vicinal Cu(001) surfaces. The step-induced anisotropy of the Co/Cu(001) films was quenched upon submonolayer Mn deposition, but a reentrant uniaxial surface anisotropy was observed for Mn thickness (tMn) between 1 and 2 monolayers, which disappears for Mn thickness above 2 monolayers. In the Mn/Co/Cu(001) system, Mn films undergo a tMn-dependent transition from FM to AF in the 1-2 Mn monolayer thickness range, which entails the coexistence of FM and AF Mn phases in the film. The observation of a sizeable uniaxial anisotropy exclusively in the Mn-thickness range of coexistence of the FM and AF phases points out the crucial role of the boundaries between FM and AF regions within the Mn film. A symmetry-breaking mechanism of a magnetic type, rather than a purely geometric one, is therefore proposed as the origin of the reentrant anisotropy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)