Physicists have created the world’s thinnest magnet. Just one atom thick!

Can you guess the size of the thinnest magnet? It is just one atom thick.

Scientists from the University of California Berkeley have created the first 2D magnet, just an atom thick. This ultra-thin magnet is also chemically stable and retains magnetism at room temperatures. The research is published in Nature Communications.

The new magnet can revolutionize the research of ferromagnetism and the development of new types of memory devices. It could be a game-changer for the field of quantum physics.

Previous ultra-thin 2D magnets had to be kept at ultracold conditions to retain the chemical properties and magnetism, making it impossible to use them in practical application.

According to material scientist Jie Yao from the University of California, “State-of-the-art 2D magnets need very low temperatures to function. But for practical reasons, a data center needs to run at room temperature. Our 2D magnet is not only the first that operates at room temperature or higher, but it is also the first magnet to reach the true 2D limit: It’s as thin as a single atom!”

Scientists made this state-of-the-art magnet using cobalt-doped van der Waals zinc oxide. A carefully measured ratio of Graphene oxide is mixed in acetate dihydrates of zinc and cobalt. When this mixture is baked in a vacuum, the mixture cools into a single layer of zinc oxide interspersed with cobalt atoms sandwiched between layers of graphene. The graphene layer is burned off by burning in the air, leaving a single layer of cobalt-doped zinc oxide.

Illustration of magnetic coupling in the material. A scanning electron microscopy confirmed the structure’s thickness to single-atom. A transmission electron microscope to image the crystal structure and composition, atom by atom. Image: Berkeley Lab

The amount of cobalt scattered among the zinc oxide determines the strength of magnetism. A sweet spot of 12 percentage of cobalt makes the layer strongly magnetic. The material also was found to be stable even at temperatures around 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Electrons are small magnets with North and South poles. They have their own tiny magnetic field, and their magnetic orientations cancel each other out in most materials. However, in ferromagnetic materials, electrons with the same magnetic orientation group themselves in domains. All the domains are oriented in the same direction in a magnetic material.

According to the researchers, the free electrons in the zinc oxide could be acting as intermediaries to keep the film magnetic even at high temperatures.

This material opens up new possibilities in various technological fields include memory devices and quantum computing. Further analysis is required to understand the limitations of this material.

Source: ScienceAlert

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