Intrinsic 2D-XY ferromagnetism in a van der Waals monolayer

Amilcar Bedoya-Pinto

Long before the recent fascination with two-dimensional materials, the critical behaviour and universality scaling of phase transitions in low-dimensional systems has been a topic of great interest. Recent experiments on layered magnetic systems show that a sizable out-of-plane magnetic anisotropy is able to stabilize 2D long-range ferromagnetic order, as demonstrated in CrI3, CrBr3, Fe3GeTe2 and Cr2Ge2Te6 [1], while a spontaneous magnetic ordering has remained elusive for an in-plane 2D magnetic system in the monolayer limit. Here, we construct a nearly ideal easy-plane system, a CrCl3 monolayer grown on Graphene/6H-SiC (0001), which exhibits ferromagnetic ordering as unambiguously determined by element-specific X-ray magnetic dichroism [2]. Hysteretic behaviour of the field-dependent magnetization is sustained up to a temperature of 10 K, and angular dependent measurements evidence a clear in-plane easy axis, unlike all other van der Waals monolayer magnets reported to date. The origin of the easy-plane anisotropy is discussed in terms of a non-zero orbital moment and a trigonal distortion of the CrCl3 unit cell. Moreover, the analysis of the critical exponents of the temperature-dependent magnetization show a scaling behaviour that is characteristic of a 2D-XY system. These observations suggest the first realization of a finite-size Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless (BKT) phase transition in a quasi-freestanding monolayer magnet with a XY universality class; accessible through the bottom-up growth of a van der Waals layer with an in-plane hexagonal crystal symmetry and negligible substrate interaction.

Figure 1. (a) Schematic crystal structure of CrCl3/Graphene/6H-SiC layers in top view and cross-section configurations. (b) Atom resolved image of the CrCl3 lattice featuring a moiré pattern, which corresponds to a 23.8° rotation between the hexagonal unit cell of CrCl3 and graphene.(c) XMCD hysteresis loops taken in grazing (in-plane) and normal (out-of-plane) incidence, evidencing a weak anisotropy favouring an in-plane easy axis. (d) Modified Arrott-Plots for the temperature-and field dependent XMCD data. A consistent set of critical exponents is inferred (β=0.235, γ= 2.2), matching with the predictions of the 2DXY model.

[1] K. S. Burch, D. Mandrus, J. G. Park, Nature. 563, 47–52 (2018)
[2] A. Bedoya-Pinto et al., arXiV (2020)

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