In order to optimize the nanogranular structure of FePt-C for heat-assisted magnetic recording media, we investigated the influence of MgO underlayers on the growth of FePt grains in the FePt-C layer. The FePt-C layer was deposited by using the alternating sputtering method, by which FePt and FePt-C layers were alternately deposited. To understand the growth mechanism of the FePt-C layer on the MgO underlayers deposited under various conditions, detailed plan-view and cross sectional transmission electron microscopy observations were made for different film thicknesses. We found that columnar FePt grains grow only when the deposition conditions of the MgO underlayer are optimal. Direct TEM observation of the growth process of the FePt-C layer revealed that the number density of nuclei is sufficient in the initial stage of the film deposition; however, coarsening of the grains after grain impingement causes a substantial decrease in the number density of the FePt grains.
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