Science and Engineering

University of California, Berkeley

D. Kwabena Bediako, Michael Zuerch
Berkeley, CA
$1,000,000
December 2020
 

Conventional crystals use individual atoms as their building blocks.  A contemporary goal of synthetic materials chemistry is instead to use clusters of atoms that are subsequently arranged into a much longer-range pattern to form so-called superatomic crystals or supercrystals.  Such materials have the potential to display properties that are distinct from those of atomic solids owing to the integration of multiple length scales as well as the emergent properties of the superatomic clusters themselves.  To-date, atomically thin ‘two-dimensional’ (2D) superatomic solids have not been synthesized or isolated as freestanding crystals.  A pair of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley want to create this materials paradigm with a specific focus on realizing a totally uncharted class of 2D magnetic solids that can be manipulated with ultrafast light waves.  The team’s approach exploits recently discovered highly tunable patterns in twisted (or moiré) bilayers of atomically thin materials.  In stark contrast to other work on 2D materials, they seek these moiré architectures primarily as an atomic host/scaffold for long range chemical assembly.  The researchers will combine synthesis of this highly tunable new family of materials with new ultrafast optical spectroscopy and imaging methods to probe both ground state and excited state magnetic behavior.  Their bottom–up approach to inventing high-density ultrathin magnets that will be optically addressable at ultrafast rates overcomes a critical current limitation in ultrafast coherent magnetism.  This project promises to open a new realm of tera- to petahertz magnetic switching, with transformative ramifications for ultralow-power electronics, ultrafast compact memories, and artificial intelligence.

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