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All-optical switching of magnetization in atomically thin CrI3


Control of magnetism has attracted interest in achieving low-power and high-speed applications such as magnetic data storage and spintronic devices. Two-dimensional magnets allow for control of magnetic properties using the electric field, electrostatic doping and strain. In two-dimensional atomically thin magnets, a non-volatile all-optical method would offer the distinct advantage of switching magnetic states without application of an external field. Here, we demonstrate such all-optical magnetization switching in the atomically thin ferromagnetic semiconductor, CrI3, triggered by circularly polarized light pulses. The magnetization switching behaviour strongly depends on the exciting photon energy and polarization, in correspondence with excitonic transitions in CrI3, indicating that the switching process is related to spin angular momentum transfer from photoexcited carriers to local magnetic moments. Such an all-optical magnetization switching should allow for further exploration of magneto-optical interactions and open up applications in high-speed and low-power spintronic devices.

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Fig. 1: All-optical magnetization switching in atomically thin magnetic crystal of CrI3 and sample characterization.
Fig. 2: Experimental demonstration of all-optical magnetization switching in 2D CrI3.
Fig. 3: Fluence-dependent magnetization switching phase diagram for circularly polarized exciting photons with different energies.
Fig. 4: Excitonic transitions in 3 L CrI3 and circularly polarized photon absorption difference at selected energies.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This work was primarily supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (award no. 5722) and the Ernest S. Kuh Endowed Chair Professorship (P.Z., T.-F.C., Q.L., S.W., S.Y. and X.Z.). P.Z. thanks M. Wu and C. Hu for discussions. W.L.B.H. and J.E.G. acknowledge support from the Center for Emergent Materials, a National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, under award number DMR-2011876. Q.W. and J.Y. acknowledge support from Intel Corporation under an award titled Valleytronics Center and US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division under contract no. DE-AC02-05-CH11231 within the Organic-Inorganic Nano-composites Program (KC3104).

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Authors and Affiliations



P.Z. and X.Z. initiated the project and designed the experiments. P.Z. prepared the samples with the assistance of T.-F.C.; P.Z. developed the all-optical magnetization switching set-up and performed all the optical measurements with the assistance of Q.L. and Q.W.; W.L.B.H. and J.E.G. grew the bulk CrI3 crystals. T.-F.C., S.W. and S.Y. provided valuable insight and suggestions. X.Z. supervised the research. P.Z. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. All the authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xiang Zhang.

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Zhang, P., Chung, TF., Li, Q. et al. All-optical switching of magnetization in atomically thin CrI3. Nat. Mater. (2022).

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