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Researchers in Spain have discovered that if lead atoms are intercalated on a graphene sheet, a powerful magnetic field is generated by the interaction of the electrons' spin with their orbital movement. This property could have implications in spintronics, an emerging technology promoted by the European Union to create advanced computational systems.

Graphene is considered the material of the future due to its extraordinary optical and electronic mechanical properties, especially because it conducts electrons very quickly. However, it does not have magnetic properties, and thus no method has been found to manipulate these electrons or any of their properties to use it in new magnetoelectronic devices, although Spanish scientists have come upon a key.

Researchers from IMDEA Nanoscience, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the Madrid Institute of Materials Science (CSIC) and the University of the Basque Country describe in the journal Nature Physics this week how to create a powerful magnetic field using this new material.

The secret is to intercalate atoms or Pb islands below the sea of hexagons of carbon that make up graphene. This produces an enormous interaction between two electron characteristics: their spin -- a small 'magnet' linked to their rotation -- and their orbit, the movement they follow around the nucleus.

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