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We present a study of Ar ion milling-induced damage in exchange biased IrMn/CoFe/Ag-based magnetic multilayer thin films. While process variations determine the change in CoFe magnetic properties, the distance from the ion milling front to the IrMn/CoFe interface dominates the extent of exchange bias damage. Remarkably, the interfacial coupling energy J can be reduced by 50% before any removal of the CoFe pinned layer. We attribute the losses to microstructural changes and damage effects where cap material is driven into the CoFe layer below. Disturbance depth estimates from ion impact simulations agree reasonably with the observed length scales of damage.


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