Researchers control tiny magnetic states within ultrathin, 2D van der Waals magnets

Researchers at the University of Wyoming, Pennsylvania State University, Northeastern University, The University of Texas at Austin, Colorado State University and Japan's National Institute for Materials Science have developed a method to control tiny magnetic states within ultrathin, two-dimensional van der Waals magnets - a process similar to how flipping a light switch controls a bulb.

The team developed a device known as a magnetic tunnel junction, which uses chromium triiodide - a 2D insulating magnet only a few atoms thick - sandwiched between two layers of graphene. By sending a tiny electric current called a tunneling current through this sandwich, the direction of the magnet's orientation of the magnetic domains (around 100 nanometers in size) can be dictated within the individual chromium triiodide layers.


Effective control of magnetic phases in two-dimensional magnets would be considered as significant progress in spintronics. In their recent work, the team reported a new way of leveraging tunneling current as a tool for controlling spin states in CrI3. The scientists revealed that a tunneling current can deterministically switch between spin-parallel and spin-antiparallel states in few-layer CrI3, depending on the polarity and amplitude of the current. They proposed a mechanism involving nonequilibrium spin accumulation in graphene electrodes in contact with the CrI3 layers. 

They further demonstrated tunneling current-tunable stochastic switching between multiple spin states of the CrI3 tunnel devices, which goes beyond conventional bi-stable stochastic magnetic tunnel junctions and has not been documented in two-dimensional magnets. 

The team's findings not only address the existing knowledge gap concerning the influence of tunneling currents in controlling the magnetism in two-dimensional magnets, but also unlock possibilities for energy-efficient probabilistic and neuromorphic computing.

Posted: May 15,2024 by Roni Peleg