Nature, Vol.588, No.7836, 66-+, 2020
Electrical switching of magnetic order in an orbital Chern insulator
Magnetism typically arises from the joint effect of Fermi statistics and repulsive Coulomb interactions, which favours ground states with non-zero electron spin. As a result, controlling spin magnetism with electric fields-a longstanding technological goal in spintronics and multiferroics(1,2)-can be achieved only indirectly. Here we experimentally demonstrate direct electric-field control of magnetic states in an orbital Chern insulator(3-6), a magnetic system in which non-trivial band topology favours long-range order of orbital angular momentum but the spins are thought to remain disordered(7-14). We use van der Waals heterostructures consisting of a graphene monolayer rotationally faulted with respect to a Bernal-stacked bilayer to realize narrow and topologically non-trivial valley-projected moire minibands(15-17). At fillings of one and three electrons per moire unit cell within these bands, we observe quantized anomalous Hall effects(18) with transverse resistance approximately equal to h/2e(2) (where h is Planck's constant and e is the charge on the electron), which is indicative of spontaneous polarization of the system into a single-valley-projected band with a Chern number equal to two. At a filling of three electrons per moire unit cell, we find that the sign of the quantum anomalous Hall effect can be reversed via field-effect control of the chemical potential; moreover, this transition is hysteretic, which we use to demonstrate non-volatile electric-field-induced reversal of the magnetic state. A theoretical analysis(19) indicates that the effect arises from the topological edge states, which drive a change in sign of the magnetization and thus a reversal in the favoured magnetic state. Voltage control of magnetic states can be used to electrically pattern non-volatile magnetic-domain structures hosting chiral edge states, with applications ranging from reconfigurable microwave circuit elements to ultralow-power magnetic memories. Non-volatile electrical switching of magnetic order in an orbital Chern insulator is experimentally demonstrated using a moire heterostructure and analysis shows that the effect is driven by topological edge states.