It sounds impossible, but physicists created a magnet that is one atom thick

magnet one atom thick magnetics lab
You may have heard of graphene, the ultra-thin wonder material that is a single layer of pure carbon, derived from graphene. Well, scientists at the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have just employed the same technique that is used for skimming graphene from graphite to develop the thinnest magnet ever created.

It is so thin, in fact, that it counts as the world’s first 2D magnet, with a thickness of just one atom. This counts as being functionally two-dimensional because electrons can only travel within the atomic sheet, akin to pieces moving on a chessboard. Up until now, no 3D magnetic substance has been able to retain its magnetic properties after being thinned down to a single atomic sheet.

The development demonstrates that magnetism can work in the 2D world, which could have major implications for building future quantum computers.

“In general, magnets have critical application in sensing and information technologies, such as modern hard-disk storage,” Xiaodong Xu, a University of Washington professor of Physics and of Materials Science and Engineering, told Digital Trends. “2D magnets may offer new opportunities in nanoscale spintronic devices along the same line of applications. However, since this is the first discovery of isolated monolayer magnet at the truly 2D limit, lots fundamental questions need to be addressed before figuring out the killer applications.”

The work was described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature. It details the process of creating the magnets, which are derived from a ferromagnetic material called chromium triiodide. This is stripped down into individual flakes one atom thick using a surprisingly low-fi technique: Using Scotch tape to peel off layers. Chromium triiodide has various properties that led researchers to theorize it could be used to create 2D magnets, such as the fact that it is “anisotropic,” meaning that its electrons’ spin direction run perpendicular to the plane of the crystal.

Interestingly, the magnetic signal of the 2D magnet disappeared when the flakes were two atoms thick instead of just one, although the magnetic property returned in sheets of three layers.

Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we've rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.
Home Theater

How to install Dolby Atmos ceiling speakers

When it comes to getting the very best Dolby Atmos sound quality, ceiling speakers are a must. Installing them, however, can be a daunting task for even the most gung-ho DIYer. Don't worry - you can do it. Just follow our complete guide and…

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."