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Breakthrough quantum material delivers major advances in processor speed

[Apr. 16, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]

This discovery is a significant development in the field of quantum materials that have magnetic properties and could pave the way for energy-efficient and ultra-fast computers and mobile devices. (CREDIT: Nicoletta Barolini)

Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has achieved a groundbreaking milestone by being the first to make a two-dimensional magnetic quantum material work at room temperature. This discovery is a significant development in the field of quantum materials that have magnetic properties and could pave the way for energy-efficient and ultra-fast computers and mobile devices. Until now, these types of materials could only function in extremely cold temperatures.

As the world's rapid expansion of information technology generates enormous amounts of digital data that need to be stored, processed, and communicated, there is an ever-increasing need for energy. In fact, it is projected that the energy consumption of IT will account for over 30 percent of the world's total energy consumption by 2050. Therefore, the research community has entered a new paradigm in materials science, focusing on the research and development of two-dimensional quantum materials.


Two-dimensional quantum materials form in sheets and are only a few atoms thick, making them attractive for developing sustainable, faster, and more energy-efficient data storage and processing in computers and mobile devices. The first atomically thin material to be isolated in a laboratory was graphene, a single atom-thick plane of graphite, that resulted in the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In 2017, two-dimensional materials with magnetic properties were discovered for the first time, which opened new and more sustainable solutions for a wide range of technology devices.


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Two-dimensional magnetic materials offer unique magnetic properties that make them promising candidates for developing new energy-efficient and ultra-fast applications for sensors and advanced magnetic memory and computing concepts. This makes them more sustainable because they are atomically thin, and they open up new doors for a range of different technologies, according to Saroj Dash, Professor in Quantum Device Physics at Chalmers University of Technology.

However, until now, researchers have only been able to demonstrate two-dimensional magnets in extremely low temperatures in laboratory environments, known as cryogenic temperatures, inhibiting their broader use in society.


Now, a group of researchers at Chalmers University of Technology has been able to demonstrate, for the very first time, a new two-dimensional magnetic material-based device at room temperature. They used an iron-based alloy (Fe5GeTe2) with graphene which can be used as a source and detector for spin-polarised electrons.

The researchers have for the first time succeeded in demonstrating a device, based on a 2D magnetic material, in room temperature. The illustration shows a 2D magnet used as an efficient source and detector for spin polarized electrons on a graphene channel. (CREDIT: Advanced Materials)

Bing Zhao, post-doc in Quantum Device Physics and first author of the study, explains that "these 2D magnets can be used to develop ultra-compact, faster and more energy-efficient memory devices in computers. They may also be used to develop highly sensitive magnetic sensors for a wide range of applications, including biomedical and environmental monitoring, navigation, and communication."


Conventional electronic logic devices are based on nonmagnetic semiconductors and use the flow of electric charges to achieve information processing and communication. In contrast, spintronic devices exploit the spin of electrons to generate and control charge currents and to interconvert electrical and magnetic signals. By combining processing, storage, sensing, and logic within a single integrated platform, spintronics could complement and, in some cases, outperform semiconductor-based electronics, offering advantages in terms of scaling, power consumption, and data processing speed.

Room-temperature spin-valve with Fe5GeTe2/graphene heterostructure. The half-filled solid balls represent an occupation probability of Ge and Fe1 atoms. The shaded area represents the interfacial part, which is modeled in DFT calculations. (CREDIT: Advanced Materials)

This breakthrough in the development of two-dimensional quantum materials with magnetic properties is believed to enable a range of technical applications in several industries, including biomedicine, environment, navigation, and communication, as well as in our everyday lives. This development could revolutionize the way we use and consume energy in the future.


This research achievement is an excellent example of the innovative breakthroughs made possible by the advancements in quantum technologies. As the world continues to evolve, it is essential to stay at the forefront of new technologies and push the boundaries of what is possible. This breakthrough in the field of quantum materials opens up new avenues for exploration and development of more efficient and sustainable technology solutions.

Hanle spin precession in Fe5GeTe2/graphene heterostructure at room temperature. a,c) Schematics of xHanle and zHanle measurement geometries with Bx and Bz field sweeps respectively, and the expected lineshape of the spin precession signal for all the possible FGT magnetization scenarios (Mx, My, and Mz). b,d) Measured xHanle and zHanle signals in the FGT–Co spin valve with different magnetic configurations (P/AP) of the electrodes. (CREDIT: Advanced Materials)

The research team at Chalmers University of Technology is not the only group exploring the potential of two-dimensional magnetic materials. Other institutions around the world, such as MIT and the University of Manchester, have also made significant progress in this area. However, the Chalmers team's achievement of demonstrating a functional device at room temperature is a significant milestone in the field.

The Fe5GeTe2 material used by the Chalmers team has a unique magnetic structure that makes it an excellent candidate for spintronic applications. Spintronics is a rapidly growing field of research that aims to develop new technologies based on the spin of electrons rather than their charge. By utilizing the spin of electrons, spintronic devices can achieve higher data processing speeds, lower power consumption, and greater sensitivity than traditional electronics.


The potential applications of two-dimensional magnetic materials are vast and varied. In addition to their use in more energy-efficient computers and mobile devices, they could also be used to develop advanced sensors for medical and environmental monitoring. The sensitivity of these sensors could enable earlier detection of diseases and environmental hazards, leading to more effective treatment and prevention strategies.

Bing Zhao, post-doc in Quantum Device Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. (CREDIT: Chalmers University)

Another potential application of two-dimensional magnetic materials is in the field of quantum computing. Quantum computing is a revolutionary technology that promises to solve complex problems much faster than traditional computers. However, the development of practical quantum computers has been hampered by the difficulty of creating and maintaining the fragile quantum states necessary for computation. Two-dimensional magnetic materials could provide a solution to this problem by serving as a platform for the creation and manipulation of these quantum states.


The Chalmers team's achievement is just one of many breakthroughs in the rapidly evolving field of quantum technologies. The development of new materials with unique properties and the ability to manipulate quantum states is paving the way for a new era of technological advancement. As these technologies continue to evolve and mature, they have the potential to transform nearly every aspect of modern life, from healthcare to finance to transportation.

Saroj Dash, Professor, Quantum Device Physics Laboratory, Chalmers University of Technology. (CREDIT: Chalmers/Oscar Mattsson)

However, the development of these technologies also poses new challenges and risks. The potential for quantum technologies to disrupt traditional industries and create new ones raises questions about the societal and economic impacts of these changes. As with any new technology, it is essential to consider the ethical, social, and environmental implications of quantum technologies and to develop strategies to mitigate potential risks.


Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of quantum technologies are too significant to ignore. The breakthrough achieved by the Chalmers team is just the beginning of what promises to be a long and exciting journey of discovery and innovation. As we continue to explore the possibilities of quantum materials, we must remain vigilant and mindful of the responsibilities that come with such transformative technologies.

The demonstration is described in the study Room Temperature Spin-Valve with van der Waals Ferromagnet Fe5GeTe2/Graphene Heterostructure published in the scientific journal Advanced Materials.

For more science and technology news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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