Graphene of ‘magic angle’: from insulator to superconductor in one click

In April 2018, the journal Nature [study 1 and study 2] published two different articles in the same field to the MIT research team led by the Spanish Pablo Jarillo-Herrero. The first, on the results of an investigation that indicated that, if two layers of graphene (layers of carbon atoms in a hexagonal network of a single atom thick), exposed to a small electric field and cooled to 1.7 degrees above the absolute zero (-271.4 degrees Celsius), were rotated among themselves at an angle close to 1.1 ° (which researchers of this material call ‘magic angle’), were surprisingly converted into an insulating material.

And that same day, Nature, exceptionally, also published to the Jarillo-Herrero Group of the MIT, other results even more extraordinary. If a change in their electric field is applied to the above graphene layers, they suddenly become a superconducting material, in which electricity flows without resistance and therefore without loss of energy.

Seven months later, other research groups have independently verified those results. Physics World magazine, of the prestigious Institute of Physics (IOP), chose these scientific findings as the most outstanding scientific discovery worldwide in 2018. Nature endorsed this choice by publishing them at the top of its list of the ten best discoveries of the year.

Yuan Cao et al. 2018. Correlated insulator behaviour at half-filling in magic-angle graphene superlatticesNature. DOI: 10.1038/nature26154

Yuan Cao et al. 2018. Unconventional superconductivity in magic-angle graphene superlatticesNature. DOI: 10.1038/nature26160

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