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Ever since graphene—a thin carbon sheet just one-atom thick—was discovered more than 15 years ago, the wonder material became a workhorse in materials science research. From this body of work, other researchers learned that slicing graphene along the edge of its honeycomb lattice creates one-dimensional zigzag graphene strips or nanoribbons with exotic magnetic properties.

Many researchers have sought to harness nanoribbons' unusual magnetic behavior into carbon-based, spintronics devices that enable high-speed, low-power data storage and information processing technologies by encoding data through electron spin instead of charge. But because zigzag nanoribbons are highly reactive, researchers have grappled with how to observe and channel their exotic properties into a real-world device.

Now, as reported in the Dec. 22 issue of the journal Nature, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have developed a method to stabilize the edges of graphene nanoribbons and directly measure their unique magnetic properties.

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