July 5, 2022
Lilia Xie is a Berkeley Lab affiliate at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) and a postdoctoral researcher in materials chemistry at UC Berkeley. Xie works to develop new two-dimensional materials with electronic and magnetic properties that could enable more efficient information processing and storage technologies. In 2021, she was named a L'Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellow.
What made you choose UC Berkeley for your research?
I was fascinated by the work that my advisor, Professor Kwabena Bediako, is leading, and drawn to the breadth and depth of research on campus as well as the synergistic relationship with Berkeley Lab. The facilities and resources available at UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab for pursuing all of the avenues of my research are top-notch.
Could you describe your research and its goals?
My team works on a class of materials with layered structures like sheets of paper stacked on top of one another. By introducing different elements into the spaces between the sheets, we can create materials with fascinating electronic and magnetic properties. The original “sheets” are non-magnetic, but when we introduce elements such as iron or chromium, the resulting materials become magnetic. For the chromium-containing materials specifically, the electrons in separate layers are aligned in different directions, like the steps of a spiral staircase. The number of spirals can be changed by applying a magnetic field and read out by measuring the conductivity, meaning that these materials can be used to reversibly store and retrieve data. Therefore, they might be useful for information storage technologies in the future.
How do you use Berkeley Lab resources in your research?
An unanswered question is how the element between the sheets interacts with the sheets themselves to create a magnet. We’re using an ALS technique, angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, to see how the electrons in these materials interact with one another. By understanding how these interactions change as a function of the material’s composition and structure, we can design more tunable and robust magnets in the future. It’s also been invaluable to learn from the expert beamline scientists at the ALS how to carry out experiments and interpret data.