Dr. Jie Yao and his colleagues become successful in creating the world’s thinnest magnet at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California (UC) Berkeley. They claim that their 2D magnet is just an atom thick and can be operated at room temperature (and high). It can make pathways for advancements in next-generation memory devices, computing, quantum physics, and spintronics.
Just an Atom Thick 2D Magnet Can Operate at Room Temperatures
Today’s memory devices consist of a magnetic component that is made of thin films. However, at the atomic level, they are still three-dimensional, being thousands of atoms thick. Several researchers tried to invent a 2D magnet that is smaller and thinner and stores data at quite a higher density. They succeeded to some extent but failed to make their 2D magnet function at room temperature. Their invention always lost magnetism and became chemically unstable at higher temperatures.
Dr. Yao, Chen, and other scientists call their invention “exciting” since it not only functions at high temperatures but also reveals an advanced mechanism to discern 2D magnetic materials. It’s the first 2D magnet that reaches the true 2D limit and is just an atom thick.
Making of the True 2D Magnet
Scientists synthesized the latest 2D magnet from a solution of zinc, graphene oxide, and cobalt, known as cobalt-doped van der Waals zinc-oxide magnet. Baking for a few hours in a conventional laboratory oven, the mixture was transformed into a single atomic layer of zinc oxide. They added a few cobalt atoms that were sandwiched between the layers of graphene. Lastly, they burned the graphene, having just the plane of cobalt-zinc oxide left behind. They say that anyone in the industry can adopt their method easily at lower costs.
A few scannings and X-rays determined the 2D magnet atom by atom and its chemical composition and crystal structure. They realized that the graphene-zinc-oxide system becomes less magnetic with a 5-6% concentration of cobalt atoms. Therefore, they increased the concentration to 12% and discovered a powerful magnet.
Working on the New 2D Magnet
Microscopic magnets with north and south poles are present in all magnetic memory devices. The orientation of these microscopic magnets follows the direction of an external magnetic field. Data is encoded when they flip to the desired directions.
Zinc oxide’s free electrons of 2D magnet function as an intermediary to ensure that the magnetic cobalt atoms in the 2D device remain pointing in a similar direction and stay magnetic even when the semiconductor zinc oxide is a non-magnetic material. It uses the orientation of an electron to encode data.
Written By: Faiza Amin
Reported By: Imaaz Nadeem