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Electric-field switching of two-dimensional van der Waals magnets


Controlling magnetism by purely electrical means is a key challenge to better information technology1. A variety of material systems, including ferromagnetic (FM) metals2,3,4, FM semiconductors5, multiferroics6,7,8 and magnetoelectric (ME) materials9,10, have been explored for the electric-field control of magnetism. The recent discovery of two-dimensional (2D) van der Waals magnets11,12 has opened a new door for the electrical control of magnetism at the nanometre scale through a van der Waals heterostructure device platform13. Here we demonstrate the control of magnetism in bilayer CrI3, an antiferromagnetic (AFM) semiconductor in its ground state12, by the application of small gate voltages in field-effect devices and the detection of magnetization using magnetic circular dichroism (MCD) microscopy. The applied electric field creates an interlayer potential difference, which results in a large linear ME effect, whose sign depends on the interlayer AFM order. We also achieve a complete and reversible electrical switching between the interlayer AFM and FM states in the vicinity of the interlayer spin-flip transition. The effect originates from the electric-field dependence of the interlayer exchange bias.

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Fig. 1: Crystal structure and magnetic phase diagram of bilayer CrI3.
Fig. 2: Linear ME effect in AFM bilayer CrI3.
Fig. 3: ME response of bilayer (2L) and monolayer (1L) CrI3.
Fig. 4: Electrical switching of the magnetic order in bilayer CrI3.


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The research was supported the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under grant FA9550-16-1-0249 and the Army Research Office under grant W911NF-17-1-0605 for sample and device fabrication, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under grant FA9550- 14-1-0268 for optical spectroscopy measurements. Support for data analysis and modelling was provided by the National Science Foundation DMR-1410407 (J.S.), and a David and Lucille Packard Fellowship and a Sloan Fellowship (K.F.M.).

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All the authors conceived and designed the experiments, analysed the data and co-wrote the manuscript. S.J. fabricated the devices and performed the measurements.

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Correspondence to Jie Shan or Kin Fai Mak.

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Jiang, S., Shan, J. & Mak, K.F. Electric-field switching of two-dimensional van der Waals magnets. Nature Mater 17, 406–410 (2018).

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