Welcome to the Karel Lab in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Monash University

What We Do

Our research focuses on utilising either thin film growth techniques or application of external electric fields to control the magnetic or electronic properties of advanced functional materials. We are particularly interested in the electronic modifications in materials resulting from application of very large electric fields during liquid electrolyte gating and how to utilise these changes to make novel computing devices.  We also study magnetic thin films for spintronic applications (such as magnetic data storage) where we use disorder and nanostructuring to control the properties.  Representative examples of our work can be found below.

Liquid Electrolyte Gating to Realise Novel Materials Properties

“Distinct Electronic Structure of the Electrolyte-Gate Induced Conducting Phase in Vanadium Dioxide Revealed by High Energy Photoelectron Spectroscopy J. Karel, et al., ACS Nano (2014)

VO2 is a promising material for future computing devices because it exhibits a transition from conducting to non-conducting behaviour (metal-insulator transition) near room temperature which is characterised by a change in resistivity of over five orders of magnitude. Perhaps more interestingly, it was found that liquid electrolyte gating leads to a suppression of this transition entirely, making the material conducting down to very low temperatures. This effect is also reversible. It was known that the technique induces changes in the structure and resistivity of the material, but the modifications in the electronic structure as a result of this procedure were not known.  Our work found that a distinct electronic structure is produced. These results suggest liquid electrolyte gating as an extremely promising route to reversibly create new metastable states in materials for future computing devices.


(a) Experiment and device schematic. The gate electrode and the electrical contacts to the channel are formed from Au and shown as yellow.  The VO2 channel is depicted in pink, and the semi-transparent turquoise droplet is the ionic liquid. The linearly p-polarized light impinges the sample at an incidence angle of 5º and 60º for a near-normal (θ =85º) and off-normal (θ =30º) photoemission measurements. (b) VB spectra at near-normal emission condition measured at 3.0 keV for VO2 in the rutile (350 K), gated (120 K) and monoclinic (120 K) states. Subfigures (c), (d) and (e) show the dependence of the VB spectra intensity on the light incidence for the three phases. Solid (dashed) lines represent the incidence angle of 5º (60º). Inset figures depict the relationship between orbital polarization and the electric field direction (E) of the light in each case.

“A Transparent Conducting Oxide Induced by Liquid Electrolyte Gating” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science C.E. ViolBarbosa, J. Karel, et al., (2016)

Highly conducting transparent oxides are essential in modern technologies, where optical transparency through a low resistance electrode is needed. These materials can be readily found in applications such as electronic displays, touchscreens and photovoltaics; they are also employed in energy-conserving windows to reflect the infrared spectrum. Our work discovered that highly conducting transparent oxide films can be formed by electrolyte gating thin films of tungsten trioxide, WO3, that are insulating as initially prepared. The results of this work point toward electrolyte gating of insulating oxides as a novel means of obtaining new classes of transparent conducting electrodes for touchscreens, electronic displays and photovoltaics.


WO3 thin film (a) optically transparent and insulating in the as-prepared state and (b) optically transparent and metallic after liquid electrolyte gating.  Liquid electrolyte gating leads to a slight expansion of the material, which is exaggerated for clarity in (b).

Controlling Magnetic Thin Film Properties using Disorder and Nanostructuring

“Evidence for In-Plane Tetragonal c-axis in MnxGa1-x Thin Films using Transmission Electron Microscopy” J. Karel et. al., Scripta Materialia (2016), and “MnxGa1-x Nanodots with High Coercivity and Perpendicular Magnetic Anisotropy” J. Karel et. al., Applied Surface Science (2016)

Mn-Ga is an interesting material for future data storage devices, in part due to it exhibiting uniaxial magnetic anisotropy. This means that the magnetic moments point along a single crystallographic axis in the material. In thin film form, this property manifests itself as so called perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA), which means the magnetic moments align perpendicular to the film plane. A magnetic data storage device with PMA is sought after since it increases device stability by reducing thermal magnetic fluctuations which can lead to data loss. Many researchers have found that Mn-Ga thin films exhibit a secondary magnetic phase, which is detrimental to the use of this material in data storage devices. The origin of this secondary phase was unclear, and our work found it originated from a fraction of the film with the crystallographic axis oriented in a different direction. We showed that this secondary magnetic contribution was reduced by modifying the thin film preparation conditions. We also showed that Mn-Ga nanodots could be prepared from these films using a low-cost self-assembly nanolithography procedure with polystyrene nanospheres; the dots still exhibited PMA after this procedure. These results suggest the material and fabrication technique can be used for preparation of nanostructured spintronic devices.


 (a) Cross sectional HRTEM image from the x=0.75, 350oC sample.  The inset shows a portion of the FFT in the film region.  Diffraction spots for tetragonal Mn3Ga with 2 different orientations (200 and 004) are highlighted. (b) Color map showing the spatial distribution of the different crystallographic orientations highlighted in the FFT.  The inset shows the film microstructure (c) HRTEM image and (d) corresponding FFT from the x=0.75, 300oC sample. The inset shows that the film forms faceted islands with a single out of plane orientation. [Figure from Karel, et al., Scripta Materialia (2016)

figure 2.jpg

Schematic of nanolithography procedure and corresponding scanning electron microscope image. [Figure from Karel et al., Applied Surface Science (2016)]

“Using Structural Disorder to Enhance the Magnetism and Spin Polarisation in FexSi1-x Thin Films for Spintronics” J. Karel et al., Materials Research Express (2014)

 In this work, structural disorder was utilised to improve the magnetic properties. That is, we evidenced an enhancement in the magnetic moment and spin polarisation by making the material amorphous (no long-range periodicity in the lattice). This result is particularly surprising when considered in the context of other amorphous transition metal alloys. It is the first time that an amorphous structure has actually lead to an enhancement in the magnetic moment and spin-polarisation, a fact which not only suggests the potential of this material as a spin injector but also that structural disorder could be used as a method to enhance the properties of other material systems.


Magnetization at 2 K versus Fe concentration for FexSi1-x amorphous and crystalline materials.  Solid symbols are experimental data: amorphous films (red squares) and epitaxial films (blue circles). Open symbols are theory: amorphous (red stars), A2 (half filled black circle), B2 (blue triangle), D03 (blue square with cross). The red and blue dashed lines are a guide to the eye.


Dr. Julie Karel
20 Research Way, Room 316
Clayton, VIC 3800 Australia
p: +61 3 9905 5343
e: julie.karel@monash.edu
Google Scholar

Julie Karel photo

Dr. Julie Karel earned her B.S in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (2005).  From 2005-2007, Julie worked as a Materials Engineer for Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, CA and Chandler, AZ.  Dr. Karel then obtained her M.S. (2010) and PhD (2012) also in MSE from the University of California – Berkeley.  Her postdoctoral research was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Germany (2012-2016).  Since late 2016, Julie has been working as a research fellow at Monash University.

PhD students

We currently have openings for talented, motivated students who wish to undertake a PhD in the Karel Lab.  Please contact Dr. Karel directly.


Photo_GolDr. Golrokh (Gol) Akhgar
e: gol.akhgar@monash.edu

Dr. Golrokh Akhgar is a postdoctoral research fellow working in the field of topological insulators in Dr. Karels’ lab. Her research interests are in growing intrinsic and disordered magnetic topological insulators via molecular beam epitaxy and then study the electronic and magnetic properties with electrical measurements in a high magnetic field. Prior to coming to Monash, Akhgar received her PhD from La Trobe University (Australia) in 2019. She experts on quantum transport in spin-orbit coupled systems; and she was the first to demonstrate tunable spin-orbit coupling via ionic liquid gating in the 2D hole gas at the surface of diamond during her PhD in the group of Prof. Pakes. She has been awarded the Nancy Millis medal for best PhD thesis within Science at La Trobe University.


Alexander Nguyen
e: alexander.nguyen@monash.edu

Alexander Nguyen got his BA in Physics and Astrophysics with a minor in Music at the University of California – Berkeley (2016). During his time in Berkeley he did research in condensed matter physics with Professor Alessandra Lanzara. He started as working as a graduate student in Material Science Engineering with Dr. Julie Karel in 2017.


Photograph_Abu Naushad ParvezAbu Naushad Parvez
e: Abu.Parvez@monash.edu

Parvez has got his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Khulna University of Engineering & Technology, Bangladesh in 2015. He then completed his Master’s (MSc) degree in Mechanical & Automotive Engineering in 2019 from the University of Ulsan, South Korea. His research focus there was triboelectric nano energy energy harvesting from ubiquitous mechanical energy available in nature. During his MS candidature, he worked on polymers, graphene derivatives, and their composites. He also did potential analysis of pristine and composites using several nano-characterization techniques such as FE-SEM, EDX. FTIR, Raman Spectroscopy, XPS etc. He started his PhD in Materials Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Karel  in February, 2020 and is expecting to graduate in late 2023.


Scott_Karel_LabScott Bennett
e: sben0007@student.monash.edu

Scott is studying a BA in electrical engineering & BA in Science, graduating in 2023. He is currently investigating how Ionic liquid gating on functional oxides can be used to realise novel physical reservoir computing systems.


FEM Industry Guide Launch (02-08-19)-84Sally Sprague
e: sspr0001@student.monash.edu

Sally is studying a Bachelor of Materials Engineering, graduating in 2022. She is currently assembling an attachment for a PPMS puck to allow the in-plane measurement of samples.



Daniel_Karel_LabDaniël van Tubbergh
e: danielvantubb@gmail.com

Daniel is currently in his 5th year of a Bachelors of Materials Engineering and business analytics at Monash University and will graduate in June 2021. As his Final Year Project he is currently investigating the design and implementation of an automated helium delivery system.


Sandy_Karel_LabSandy Awad
e: srawa2@student.monash.edu

Sandy is studying a Bachelor of Materials and Science Engineering, graduating in 2020, currently completing her Final Year Project on Magnetorestriction of 3D printed Galfenol under the supervision of Dr. Julie Karel. Her work focuses on investigating the viability of Additive Manufacturing for applications such as transducers, sensors, actuators, oscillators, and energy harvesting.




29. Z. Li, R. Parsons, B. Zang, H. Kishimoto, T. Shoji, A. Kato, J. Karel, K. Suzuki, “Dramatic grain refinement and magnetic softening induced by Ni addition in Fe –B based nanocrystalline soft magnetic alloys”, Scripta Materialia 181 82 (2020)

28. J. Karel, D.S. Bouma, J. Martinez, Y. N. Zhang, J. A. Gifford, J. Zhang, G. J. Zhao, D.R. Kim, B. C. Li, Z. Y. Huang, R. Q. Wu, T. Y. Chen, F. Hellman, “Enhanced Spin Polarization of Amorphous FexSi1-xThin Films Revealed by Andreev Reflection Spectroscopy”, Physical Review Materials2 064411 (2018)

27. J. Karel, F. Casoli, L. Nasi, P. Lupo, R. Sahoo, B. Ernst, A. Markou, A. Kalache, R. Cabassi, F. Albertini, C. Felser, “Enhanced Magnetization and Anisotropy in Mn-Ga Thin Films Grown on LSAT”, Applied Physics Letters, 111182405 (2017)

26. C. Wang, A.A. Levin, J. Karel, S. Fabbrici, J. Qian, C.E. Viol Barbosa, S. Ouardi, F. Albertini, W. Schnelle, J. Rohlicek, G.H. Fecher, C. Felser, “Size-dependent structural and magnetic properties of chemically synthesized Co-Ni-Ga nanoparticles”, Nano Research 10 3421 (2017)

25. J. Karel, J.E. Fischer, S. Fabbrici, E. Pippel, P. Werner, M. Vinicius Castergnaro, P. Adler, S. Ouardi, B. Balke, G.H. Fecher, J. Morais, F. Albertini, S.S.P. Parkin, C. Felser, “Influence of Nanoscale Order-Disorder Transitions on the Magnetic Properties of Heusler Compounds for Spintronics”, Journal of Materials Chemistry C, 5 4388 (2017)

24. C. E. ViolBarbosa, J. Karel, J. Kiss, O.D. Gordan, S.G. Altendorf, Y. Utsumi, M.G. Samant, Y.H. Wu, K.-D. Tsuei, C. Felser and S.S.P. Parkin, “A Transparent Conducting Oxide Induced by Liquid Electrolyte Gating”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 11148 (2016)

23. K. G. Rana, O. Meshcheriakova, J. Kuebler, B. Ernst, J. Karel, R. Hillebrand, E. Pippel, P. Werner, A. Nayak, C. Felser, S.S.P Parkin, “Observation of topological Hall effect in Mn2RhSn films”, New Journal of Physics 18 085007 (2016)

22. J. Karel, F. Casoli, P. Lupo, F. Celegato, P. Tiberto, F. Albertini, C. Felser, “MnxGa1-x Nanodots with High Coercivity and Perpendicular Magnetic Anisotropy”, Applied Surface Science 387 1169 (2016)

21. C. Wang, A.A. Levin, S. Fabbrici, L. Nasi, J. Karel, J. Qian, C.E. Viol Barbosa, S. Ouardi, F. Albertini, W. Schnelle, H. Borrmann, G.H. Fecher, C. Felser, “Tunable Structural and Magnetic Properties of Chemically Synthesized Dual-Phase Co2NiGa Nanoparticles”, Journal of Materials Chemistry C 4 7241 (2016) 

20. J.E. Fischer, J. Karel, S. Fabbrici, P. Adler, S. Ouardi, G.H. Fecher, F. Albertini, C. Felser, “Magnetic properties and Curie temperatures of disordered Heusler compounds: Co1+xFe2-xSi”, Physical Review B 94 024418 (2016)

19. J. Karel, C. Bordel, D.S. Bouma, A. de Lorimier-Farmer, H.J. Lee and F. Hellman, “Scaling of the Anomalous Hall Effect in Lower Conductivity Regimes”, Europhysics Letters 114 57004 (2016)

18. X. Kozina, E. Ikenaga, C.E. ViolBarbosa, S. Ouardi, J. Karel, M. Yamamoto, K. Kobayashi, H.J. Elmers, G. Schönhense, C. Felser, “Development of hard X-ray photoelectron SPLEED-based spectrometer applicable for probing of buried magnetic layer valence states”, Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena 211, 12 (2016)

17. A.K. Nayak, J. Fischer, Y. Sun, B. Yan, J. Karel, A. Komarek, C. Shekhar, N. Kumar, W. Schnelle, J. Kübler, S.S.P. Parkin, C. Felser, “Non-vanishing Berry curvature driven large anomalous Hall effect in non-collinear antiferromagnet Mn3Ge”, Science Advances 2, e1501870 (2016)

16. J. Karel, F. Casoli, P. Lupo, L. Nasi, S. Fabbrici, L. Righi, F. Albertini, C. Felser, “Evidence for In-Plane Tetragonal c-axis in MnxGa1-x Thin Films using Transmission Electron Microscopy”, Scripta Materialia 114, 165 (2016)

15. D.R. Queen, X. Liu, J. Karel, Q. Wang, R.S. Crandall, T.H. Metcalf and F. Hellman, “Light-induced metastability in pure and hydrogenated amorphous silicon”, Europhysics Letters 112, 26001 (2015)

14. J. Karel, F. Bernardi, C. Wang, A. Beleanu, R. Stinshoff, N.-O. Born, S. Ouardi, U. Burkhardt, G.H. Fecher, C. Felser, “Evidence for Localized Moment Picture in Mn-based Heusler Compounds”, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 17, 31707 (2015)

13. C. Wang, A. Levin, L. Nasi, S. Fabbrici, J. Qian, C. Barbosa, S. Ouardi, J. Karel, F. Albertini, H. Bormann; G.H. Fecher, C. Felser, “Chemical Synthesis and Characterization of g-Co2NiGa Nanoparticles with a Very High Curie Temperature”, Chemistry of Materials 27 6994 (2015)

12. D.R. Queen, X. Liu, J. Karel, H.C. Jacks, T.H. Metcalf, F. Hellman, “Two-level Systems in Evaporated Amorphous Silicon”, Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 426 19 (2015)

11. X. Liu, D.R. Queen, T.H. Metcalf, J.E. Karel, F. Hellman, “Amorphous Dielectric Thin Films with Extremely Low Mechanical Loss”, Archives of Metallurgy and Materials, 60 359 (2015)

10. J. Karel, J. Juraszek, J. Minar, C. Bordel, K.H. Stone, Y.N. Zhang, J. Hu, R.Q. Wu, H. Ebert, J.B. Kortright and F. Hellman, “The Effect of Chemical Order on the Magnetic and Electronic Properties of Epitaxial, Off-Stoichiometry FexSi1-x Thin Films”, Physical Review B 91 144402 (2015)

9. O. Meshcheriakova, A. Koehler, S. Ouardi, T. Kubota, C. Shekhar, J. Karel, C. Barbosa, R. Stinshoff, R. Sahoo, S. Ueda, E. Ikenaga, S. Chadov, S. Mizukami, D. Ebke, G. Fecher, C. Felser, “Structural, electronic, and magnetic properties of perpendicularly magnetised Mn2RhSn thin films” Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 48 164008 (2015)

8. X. Liu, D. R. Queen, T. H. Metcalf, J. Karel, F. Hellman, “Hydrogen Free Amorphous Silicon with No Tunneling States”, Physical Review Letters, 113, 025503 (2014)

7. J. Karel, C.E. ViolBarbosa, J. Kiss, J. Jeong, N. Aetukuri, M.G. Samant, X. Kozina, E. Ikenaga, G.H. Fecher, C. Felser and S. S. P. Parkin, “Distinct Electronic Structure of the Electrolyte-Gate Induced Conducting Phase in Vanadium Dioxide Revealed by High Energy Photoelectron Spectroscopy”, ACS Nano, 8, 5474 (2014)

6. J. Karel, Y.N. Zhang, C. Bordel, K.H. Stone, C.A. Jenkins, David J. Smith, J. Hu, R. Q. Wu, S.M. Heald, J.B. Kortright and F. Hellman, “Using Structural Disorder to Enhance the Magnetism and Spin Polarization in FexSi1-x Thin Films for Spintronics”, Materials Research Express 1 026102 (2014)

5. X. Kozina, J. Karel, S. Ouardi, S. Chadov, G. H. Fecher, C. Felser, G. Stryganyuk, B. Balke, T. Ishikawa, T. Uemura, M. Yamamoto, E. Ikenaga, S. Ueda, and K. Kobayashi, “Probing the electronic states of high-TMR off-stoichiometric Co2MnSi thin films by hard x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy”, Physical Review B 89, 125116 (2014)

4. D.R. Queen, X. Liu, J. Karel, T.H. Metcalf and F. Hellman, “Excess Specific Heat in Evaporated Amorphous Si”, Physical Review Letters 110, 135901 (2013)

3. H.-J. Lee, C. Bordel, J. Karel, David W. Cooke, M. Charilaou and F. Hellman, “Electron-mediated Ferromagnetic Behavior in CoO/ZnO Multilayers”, Physical Review Letters 110, 087206 (2013)

2. A. X. Gray, J. Karel, J. Minár, C. Bordel, H. Ebert, J. Braun, S. Ueda, Y. Yamashita, Lu Ouyang, David J. Smith, K. Kobayashi, F. Hellman, and C. S. Fadley, “Hard X-ray Photoemission Study of Near-Heusler FexSi1-x Alloys”, Physical Review B, 83, 195112 (2011)

1. Li Zeng, J. X. Cao, E. Helgren, J. Karel, E. Arenholz, Lu Ouyang, David J. Smith, R. Q. Wu and F. Hellman, “Distinct local structure and magnetism for Mn in amorphous Si and Ge”, Physical Review B, 82, 165202 (2010)