Researchers stitch defects into the world’s thinnest semiconductor

Posted on May 23, 2013

In pioneering new research at Columbia University, scientists have grown high-quality crystals of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), the world’s thinnest semiconductor, and studied how these crystals stitch together at the atomic scale to form continuous sheets. Through beautiful images of strikingly symmetric stars and triangles hundreds of microns across, they have uncovered key insights into the optical and electronic properties of this new material, which can be either conducting or insulating to form the basic “on-off switch” for all digital electronics. The study is published in the May 5, 2013, issue of Nature Materials.

 

“Our research is the first to systematically examine what kinds of defects result from these large growths, and to investigate how those defects change its properties,” says James Hone, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia Engineering, who led the study. “Our results will help develop ways to use this new material in atomically thin electronics that will become integral components of a whole new generation of revolutionary products such as flexible solar cells that conform to the body of a car.”

This multidisciplinary collaboration by the Energy Frontier Research Center at Columbia University with Cornell University’s Kavli Institute for Nanoscale Science focused on molybdenum disulfide because of its potential to create anything from highly efficient, flexible solar cells to conformable touch displays. Earlier work from Columbia demonstrated that monolayer MoS2 has an electronic structure distinct from the bulk form, and the researchers are excited about exploring other atomically thin metal dichalcogenides, which should have equally interesting properties. MoS2 is in a class of materials called transition metal dichalcogenides, which can be metals, semiconductors, dielectrics, and even superconductors.

“This material is the newest in a growing family of two-dimensional crystals,” says Arend van der Zande, a research fellow at the Columbia Energy Frontier Research Center and one of the paper’s three lead authors. “Graphene, a single sheet of carbon atoms, is the thinnest electrical conductor we know. With the addition of the monolayer molybdenum disulfide and other metal dichalcogenides, we have all the building blocks for modern electronics that must be created in atomically thin form. For example, we can now imagine sandwiching two different monolayer transition metal dichalcogenides between layers of graphene to make solar cells that are only eight atoms thick—20 thousand times smaller than a human hair!”

Read more at: Phys.org