Visualizing atomic structure and magnetism of 2D magnetic insulators via tunneling through graphene

Zhizhan Qiu, Matthew Holwill, Thomas Olsen, Pin Lyu, Jing Li, Hanyan Fang, Huimin Yang, Mikhail Kashchenko, Kostya S. Novoselov, Jiong Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The discovery of two-dimensional (2D) magnetism combined with van der Waals (vdW) heterostructure engineering offers unprecedented opportunities for creating artificial magnetic structures with non-trivial magnetic textures. Further progress hinges on deep understanding of electronic and magnetic properties of 2D magnets at the atomic scale. Although local electronic properties can be probed by scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy (STM/STS), its application to investigate 2D magnetic insulators remains elusive due to absence of a conducting path and their extreme air sensitivity. Here we demonstrate that few-layer CrI3 (FL-CrI3) covered by graphene can be characterized electronically and magnetically via STM by exploiting the transparency of graphene to tunneling electrons. STS reveals electronic structures of FL-CrI3 including flat bands responsible for its magnetic state. AFM-to-FM transition of FL-CrI3 can be visualized through the magnetic field dependent moiré contrast in the dI/dV maps due to a change of the electronic hybridization between graphene and spin-polarised CrI3 bands with different interlayer magnetic coupling. Our findings provide a general route to probe atomic-scale electronic and magnetic properties of 2D magnetic insulators for future spintronics and quantum technology applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.L. acknowledges the support from MOE Tier 2 grant (MOE2017-T2-1-056 and R-143-000-A75-114) and NAMIC grant 2019014. M.K. acknowledges support from the Russian Science Foundation (grant # 16-19-10557) and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (0714-2020-0002). K.S.N. also acknowledges support from EU Flagship Programs (Graphene CNECTICT-604391 and 2D-SIPC Quantum Technology), European Research Council Synergy Grant Hetero2D, the Royal Society, and EPSRC grants EP/N010345/1, EP/P026850/1, and EP/S030719/1.


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