Magnetic Graphene Fabricated
Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Until now, magnetism has not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic impurities, but this doping tends to disrupt graphene's electronic properties. Now a team of physicists at the University of California, Riverside, has found a way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene's electronic properties. They have accomplished this by bringing a graphene sheet very close to a magnetic insulator – an electrical insulator with magnetic properties.
â€œThis is the first time that graphene has been made magnetic this way,â€ said Jing Shi, a professor of physics and astronomy, whose lab led the research. â€œThe magnetic graphene acquires new electronic properties so that new quantum phenomena can arise. These properties can lead to new electronic devices that are more robust and multi-functional.â€
The finding has the potential to increase grapheneâ€™s use in computers, as in computer chips that use electronic spin to store data. Study results appeared online earlier this month in Physical Review Letters.
The magnetic insulator Shi and his team used was yttrium iron garnet grown by laser molecular beam epitaxy in his lab. The researchers placed a single-layer graphene sheet on an atomically smooth layer of yttrium iron garnet. They found that yttrium iron garnet magnetized the graphene sheet. In other words, graphene simply borrows the magnetic properties from yttrium iron garnet.
Magnetic substances like iron tend to interfere with grapheneâ€™s electrical conduction. The researchers avoided those substances and chose yttrium iron garnet because they knew it worked as an electric insulator, which meant that it would not disrupt grapheneâ€™s electrical transport properties. By not doping the graphene sheet but simply placing it on the layer of yttrium iron garnet, they ensured that grapheneâ€™s excellent electrical transport properties remained unchanged.
In their experiments, Shi and his team exposed the graphene to an external magnetic field. They found that grapheneâ€™s Hall voltage â€“ a voltage in the perpendicular direction to the current flow â€“ depended linearly on the magnetization of yttrium iron garnet (a phenomenon known as the anomalous Hall effect, seen in magnetic materials like iron and cobalt). This confirmed that their graphene sheet had turned magnetic.
Shi was joined in the study by UC Riversideâ€™s Zhiyong Wang (first author of the research paper), Chi Tang, Raymond Sachs and Yafis Barlas. Grants to Shi and his team members from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation supported the research.