Scientists have created a one-atom-thick magnet

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,613   +124
Staff member

The discovery of graphene in 2004 led to an explosion of two-dimensional insulators, semiconductors and superconductors. Since that time, however, one specific single-atom-thick material has remained elusive… until now.

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, a condensed-matter physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Xiaodong Xu, an optoelectronics researcher with the University of Washington, joined forces in 2016 in the hunt for a 2D magnet – a quest each had been on separately up to that point. It didn’t take long for the duo to attain their goal.

A paper detailing their breakthrough, published in a recent issue of Nature, notes the use of chromium triiodide to create the 2D magnet. This material was selected due to the fact that it is a crystal comprised of stacked sheets that can be separated using the “Scotch tape” technique that was instrumental in the early days of graphene.

As suspected, the scientists found that the material maintained its magnetic characteristics even when stripped down to a single-atom-thick layer. Oddly enough, a two-layer-thick sheet isn’t magnetic yet when a third layer is added, it once again becomes a ferromagnet.

While a significant breakthrough in the world of physics, these 2D magnets still need plenty of refinement before they show up in consumer-facing devices. That’s because, in their current state, they must be kept at a temperature of -228 degrees C (roughly -378 degrees F).

Lead photo via Getty Images

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Skidmarksdeluxe

Posts: 8,645   +3,286
"they must be kept at a temperature of -228 degrees C (roughly -378 degrees F)".
It sounds like while they work on the shortcomings, it's the consumer that's going to be left out in the cold. Understandable, because if they release it to us now, it won't even be half baked. ;)
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,496   +5,870
What could the consumer gain by this? I was under the impression magnetic media was dying. That is the only thing that needs such thin magnetics.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,500   +6,002
Sounds a bit like science for the sake of science, but then again there have been more than a few of these types of applications that were refined into some very important things, like the transistor which was originally as large as a softball, now, not much in the world of electronic's that would work without them so I'll take a wait and see attitude, we might get some pretty narley stuff out of this before it's over.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,641   +931
Sounds a bit like science for the sake of science, but then again there have been more than a few of these types of applications that were refined into some very important things, like the transistor which was originally as large as a softball, now, not much in the world of electronic's that would work without them so I'll take a wait and see attitude, we might get some pretty narley stuff out of this before it's over.
I just enjoy the irony that we spent 60+ years racing to bottom, scaling our electronics down. Now its just the opposite, we've spent the last decade trying to scale up all these fun quantum discoveries into something that is actually useful.