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Stable room-temperature ferromagnetic phase at the FeRh(100) surface

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Interfaces and low dimensionality are sources of strong modifications of electronic, structural, and magnetic properties of materials. FeRh alloys are an excellent example because of the first-order phase transition taking place at ~400 K from an antiferromagnetic phase at room temperature to a high temperature ferromagnetic one. It is accompanied by a resistance change and volume expansion of about 1%. We have investigated the electronic and magnetic properties of FeRh(100) epitaxially grown on MgO by combining spectroscopies characterized by different probing depths, namely X-ray magnetic circular dichroism and photoelectron spectroscopy. We find that the symmetry breaking induced at the Rh-terminated surface stabilizes a surface ferromagnetic layer involving five planes of Fe and Rh atoms in the nominally antiferromagnetic phase at room temperature. First-principles calculations provide a microscopic description of the structural relaxation and the electron spin-density distribution that support the experimental findings.

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