Guidelines for Selecting Interlayer Spacers in Synthetic 2D-Based Antiferromagnets From First-Principles Simulations

Nanomaterials (Basel). 2019 Dec 11;9(12):1764. doi: 10.3390/nano9121764.


Following the recent synthesis of graphene-based antiferromagnetic ultrathin heterostructures made of Co and Fe, we analyse the effect of the spacer between both ferromagnetic materials. Using density functional calculations, we carried out an exhaustive study of the geometric, electronic and magnetic properties for intercalated single Co MLs on top of Ir(111) coupled to monolayered Fe through n graphene layers (n = 1, 2, 3) or monolayered h-BN. Different local atomic arrangements have been considered to model the Moiré patterns expected in these heterostructures. The magnetic exchange interactions between both ferromagnets ( J C o - F e ) are computed from explicit calculations of parallel and anti-parallel Fe/Co inter-layer alignments, and discussed in the context of recent experiments. Our analysis confirms that the robust antiferromagnetic superexchange-coupling between Fe and Co layers is mediated by the graphene spacer through the hybridization of C's p z orbitals with Fe and Co's 3d states. The hybridization is substantially suppressed for multilayered graphene spacers, for which the magnetic coupling between ferromagnets is critically reduced, suggesting the need for ultrathin (monolayer) spacers in the design of synthetic graphene-based antiferromagnets. In the case of h-BN, p z orbitals also mediate d(Fe/Co) coupling. However, there is a larger contribution of local ferromagnetic interactions. Magnetic anisotropy energies were also calculated using a fully relativistic description, and show out-of-plane easy axis for all the configurations, with remarkable net values in the range from 1 to 4 meV.

Keywords: 2d materials; density functional theory; electronic structure; exchange interactions; magnetic anisotropy; magnetic materials.