Ultrathin magnet operates at room temperature: One-atom thin 2D magnet could advance new applications in computing and electronics

The event of an ultrathin magnet that operates at room temperature may result in new purposes in computing and electronics — equivalent to high-density, compact spintronic reminiscence gadgets — and new instruments for the research of quantum physics.

The ultrathin magnet, which was not too long ago reported within the journal Nature Communications, may make massive advances in next-gen reminiscences, computing, spintronics, and quantum physics. It was found by scientists on the Division of Power’s Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley.

“We are the first to make a room-temperature 2D magnet that’s chemically steady below ambient circumstances,” stated senior writer Jie Yao, a college scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Supplies Sciences Division and affiliate professor of supplies science and engineering at UC Berkeley.

“This discovery is thrilling as a result of it not solely makes 2D magnetism attainable at room temperature, but it surely additionally uncovers a brand new mechanism to appreciate 2D magnetic supplies,” added Rui Chen, a UC Berkeley graduate scholar within the Yao Analysis Group and lead writer on the research.”

The magnetic part of at the moment’s reminiscence gadgets is often made from magnetic skinny movies. However on the atomic stage, these magnetic movies are nonetheless three-dimensional — tons of or hundreds of atoms thick. For many years, researchers have searched for methods to make thinner and smaller 2D magnets and thus allow knowledge to be saved at a a lot larger density.

Earlier achievements within the subject of 2D magnetic supplies have introduced promising outcomes. However these early 2D magnets lose their magnetism and change into chemically unstable at room temperature.


“State-of-the-art 2D magnets want very low temperatures to perform. However for sensible causes, an information middle must run at room temperature,” Yao stated. “Theoretically, we all know that the smaller the magnet, the bigger the disc’s potential knowledge density. Our 2D magnet will not be solely the primary that operates at room temperature or larger, however additionally it is the primary magnet to succeed in the true 2D restrict: It is as skinny as a single atom!”

The researchers say that their discovery can even allow new alternatives to check quantum physics. “Our atomically skinny magnet provides an optimum platform for probing the quantum world,” Yao stated. “It opens up each single atom for examination, which can reveal how quantum physics governs every single magnetic atom and the interactions between them. With a standard bulk magnet the place many of the magnetic atoms are deeply buried inside the fabric, such research could be fairly difficult to do.”

The making of a 2D magnet that may take the warmth

The researchers synthesized the brand new 2D magnet — known as a cobalt-doped van der Waals zinc-oxide magnet — from an answer of graphene oxide, zinc, and cobalt. Just some hours of baking in a standard lab oven remodeled the combination right into a single atomic layer of zinc-oxide with a smattering of cobalt atoms sandwiched between layers of graphene. In a remaining step, graphene is burned away, forsaking only a single atomic layer of cobalt-doped zinc-oxide.

“With our materials, there aren’t any main obstacles for trade to undertake our solution-based methodology,” stated Yao. “It is probably scalable for mass manufacturing at decrease prices.”

To substantiate that the ensuing 2D movie is only one atom thick, Yao and his group performed scanning electron microscopy experiments at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry to determine the fabric’s morphology, and transmission electron microscopy imaging to probe the fabric atom by atom.


With proof in hand that their 2D materials actually is simply an atom thick, the researchers went on to the subsequent problem that had confounded researchers for years: Demonstrating a 2D magnet that efficiently operates at room temperature.

X-ray experiments at Berkeley Lab’s Superior Mild Supply characterised the 2D materials’s magnetic parameters below excessive temperature. Extra X-ray experiments at SLAC Nationwide Accelerator Laboratory’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource verified the digital and crystal buildings of the synthesized 2D magnets. And at Argonne Nationwide Laboratory’s Middle for Nanoscale Supplies, the researchers imaged the 2D materials’s crystal construction and chemical composition utilizing transmission electron microscopy.

As a complete, the analysis group’s lab experiments confirmed that the graphene-zinc-oxide system turns into weakly magnetic with a 5-6% focus of cobalt atoms. Growing the focus of cobalt atoms to about 12% leads to a really robust magnet.

To the researchers’ shock, a focus of cobalt atoms exceeding 15% shifts the 2D magnet into an unique quantum state of “frustration,” whereby totally different magnetic states inside the 2D system are in competitors with one another.

And in contrast to earlier 2D magnets, which lose their magnetism at room temperature or above, the researchers discovered that the brand new 2D magnet not solely works at room temperature but in addition at 100 levels Celsius (212 levels Fahrenheit).

“Our 2D magnetic system reveals a definite mechanism in comparison with earlier 2D magnets,” stated Chen. “And we predict this distinctive mechanism is as a result of free electrons in zinc oxide.”

True north: Free electrons hold magnetic atoms on monitor

Once you command your pc to save lots of a file, that info is saved as a sequence of ones and zeroes within the pc’s magnetic reminiscence, such because the magnetic laborious drive or a flash reminiscence. And like all magnets, magnetic reminiscence gadgets include microscopic magnets with two poles — north and south, the orientations of which comply with the course of an exterior magnetic subject. Knowledge is written or encoded when these tiny magnets are flipped to the specified instructions.

In keeping with Chen, zinc oxide’s free electrons may act as an middleman that ensures the magnetic cobalt atoms within the new 2D gadget proceed pointing in the identical course — and thus keep magnetic — even when the host, on this case the semiconductor zinc oxide, is a nonmagnetic materials.

“Free electrons are constituents of electrical currents. They transfer in the identical course to conduct electrical energy,” Yao added, evaluating the motion of free electrons in metals and semiconductors to the movement of water molecules in a stream of water.

The researchers say that new materials — which may be bent into virtually any form with out breaking, and is 1 millionth the thickness of a single sheet of paper — may assist advance the appliance of spin electronics or spintronics, a brand new expertise that makes use of the orientation of an electron’s spin quite than its cost to encode knowledge. “Our 2D magnet might allow the formation of ultra-compact spintronic gadgets to engineer the spins of the electrons,” Chen stated.

“I consider that the invention of this new, strong, actually two-dimensional magnet at room temperature is a real breakthrough by Jie Yao and his college students,” stated co-author Robert Birgeneau, a college senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Supplies Sciences Division and professor of physics at UC Berkeley who co-led the research’s magnetic measurements. “Along with its apparent significance to spintronic gadgets, this 2D magnet is fascinating on the atomic stage, revealing for the primary time how cobalt magnetic atoms work together over ‘lengthy’ distances” by means of a fancy two-dimensional community, he added.

“Our outcomes are even higher than what we anticipated, which is basically thrilling. More often than not in science, experiments may be very difficult,” he stated. “However whenever you lastly understand one thing new, it is all the time very fulfilling.”

Co-authors on the paper embody researchers from Berkeley Lab, together with Alpha N’Diaye and Padraic Shafer of the Superior Mild Supply; UC Berkeley; UC Riverside; Argonne Nationwide Laboratory; and Nanjing College and the College of Digital Science and Know-how of China.

The Superior Mild Supply and Molecular Foundry are DOE nationwide consumer services at Berkeley Lab.

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource is a DOE nationwide consumer facility at SLAC Nationwide Accelerator Laboratory.

The Middle for Nanoscale Supplies is a DOE nationwide consumer facility at Argonne Nationwide Laboratory.

This work was funded by the DOE Workplace of Science, the Intel Company, and the Bakar Fellows Program at UC Berkeley.