Physicists from MIT, Harvard University, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report that they have for the first time produced a kagome (japanese basketweaving-like structure) metal — an electrically conducting crystal, made from layers of iron and tin atoms, with each atomic layer arranged in the repeating pattern of a kagome lattice.
When current flowed across the kagome layers within the crystal, the researchers observed that the triangular arrangement of atoms induced strange, quantum-like behaviors in the passing current. Instead of flowing straight through the lattice, electrons instead veered, or bent back within the lattice.
This is a three-dimensional version of the Quantum Hall effect, in which electrons flowing through a two-dimensional material will exhibit a “chiral, topological state,” in which they bend into tight, circular paths and flow along edges without losing energy.
“By constructing the kagome network of iron, which is inherently magnetic, this exotic behavior persists to room temperature and higher,” says Joseph Checkelsky, assistant professor of physics at MIT. “The charges in the crystal feel not only the magnetic fields from these atoms, but also a purely quantum-mechanical magnetic force from the lattice. This could lead to perfect conduction, akin to superconductivity, in future generations of materials.”
This behavior is now seen at room temperature and without needing magnetic fields 1 million times the earth’s magnetic field (100 Tesla).
The team is now trying to stabilize other more highly two-dimensional kagome lattice structures. Such materials could be used to explore devices with zero energy loss power lines and quantum computing.
The kagome lattice is a two-dimensional network of corner-sharing triangles that is known to host exotic quantum magnetic states. Theoretical work has predicted that kagome lattices may also host Dirac electronic states that could lead to topological and Chern insulating phases, but these states have so far not been detected in experiments. Here we study the d-electron kagome metal Fe3Sn2, which is designed to support bulk massive Dirac fermions in the presence of ferromagnetic order. We observe a temperature-independent intrinsic anomalous Hall conductivity that persists above room temperature, which is suggestive of prominent Berry curvature from the time-reversal-symmetry-breaking electronic bands of the kagome plane. Using angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, we observe a pair of quasi-two-dimensional Dirac cones near the Fermi level with a mass gap of 30 millielectronvolts, which correspond to massive Dirac fermions that generate Berry-curvature-induced Hall conductivity. We show that this behavior is a consequence of the underlying symmetry properties of the bilayer kagome lattice in the ferromagnetic state and the atomic spin–orbit coupling. This work provides evidence for a ferromagnetic kagome metal and an example of emergent topological electronic properties in a correlated electron system. Our results provide insight into the recent discoveries of exotic electronic behavior in kagome-lattice antiferromagnets and may enable lattice-model realizations of fractional topological quantum states.