An oxide (NiO, CoO, NiCoO) antiferromagnetic exchange bias layer produced by ion beam sputtering of an oxide target in pure argon (Ar) sputtering gas, with no oxygen gas introduced into the system. Antiferromagnetic oxide layers are used, for example, in magnetoresistive readback heads to shift the hysteresis loops of ferromagnetic films away from the zero field axis. For example, NiO exchange bia layers have been fabricated using ion beam sputtering of an NiO target using Ar ions, with the substrate temperature at 200.degree. C., the ion beam voltage at 1000V and the beam current at 20 mA, with a deposition rate of about 0.2 .ANG./sec. The resulting NiO film was amorphous.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.