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Role of disorder when upscaling magnetocaloric Ni-Co-Mn-Al Heusler alloys from thin films to ribbons
Research in functional magnetic materials often employs thin films as model systems for finding new chemical compositions with promising properties. However, the scale-up of thin films towards bulk-like structures is challenging, since the material synthesis conditions are entirely different for thin films and e.g. rapid quenching methods. As one of the consequences, the type and degree of order in thin films and melt-spun ribbons are usually different, leading to different magnetic properties. In this work, using the example of magnetocaloric Ni-Co-Mn-Al melt-spun ribbons and thin films, we show that the excellent functional properties of the films can be reproduced also in ribbons, if an appropriate heat treatment is applied, that installs the right degree of order in the ribbons. We show that some chemical disorder is needed to get a pronounced and sharp martensitic transition. Increasing the order with annealing improves the magnetic properties only up to a point where selected types of disorder survive, which in turn compromise the magnetic properties. These findings allow us to understand the impact of the type and degree of disorder on the functional properties, paving the way for a faster transfer of combinatorial thin film research towards bulk-like materials for magnetic Heusler alloys.