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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-08-28 12:05:33
  • Article ID: 680155

New Results Reveal High Tunability of 2-D Material

Berkeley Lab-led team also provides most precise band gap measurement yet for hotly studied monolayer moly sulfide

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    Kaiyuan Yao, a graduate student researcher at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, monitors spectroscopy equipment at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry. Yao served as the lead author of a study that measured the properties of a 2-D semiconductor material known as moly sulfide.

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    Kaiyuan Yao works with equipment at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry that was used to help measure a property in a 2-D material.

  • Credit: Berkeley Lab

    This image shows a slight “bump” (red arrow) in charted experimental data that reveals the band gap measurement in a 2-D material known as moly sulfide.

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    From left: Kaiyuan Yao, Nick Borys, and P. James Schuck, seen here at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, measured a property in a 2-D material that could help realize new applications.

Two-dimensional materials are a sort of a rookie phenom in the scientific community. They are atomically thin and can exhibit radically different electronic and light-based properties than their thicker, more conventional forms, so researchers are flocking to this fledgling field to find ways to tap these exotic traits.

Applications for 2-D materials range from microchip components to superthin and flexible solar panels and display screens, among a growing list of possible uses. But because their fundamental structure is inherently tiny, they can be tricky to manufacture and measure, and to match with other materials. So while 2-D materials R&D is on the rise, there are still many unknowns about how to isolate, enhance, and manipulate their most desirable qualities.

Now, a science team at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has precisely measured some previously obscured properties of moly sulfide, a 2-D semiconducting material also known as molybdenum disulfide or MoS2. The team also revealed a powerful tuning mechanism and an interrelationship between its electronic and optical, or light-related, properties.

To best incorporate such monolayer materials into electronic devices, engineers want to know the “band gap,” which is the minimum energy level it takes to jolt electrons away from the atoms they are coupled to, so that they flow freely through the material as electric current flows through a copper wire. Supplying sufficient energy to the electrons by absorbing light, for example, converts the material into an electrically conducting state.

As reported in the Aug. 25 issue of Physical Review Letters, researchers measured the band gap for a monolayer of moly sulfide, which has proved difficult to accurately predict theoretically, and found it to be about 30 percent higher than expected based on previous experiments. They also quantified how the band gap changes with electron density – a phenomenon known as “band gap renormalization.”

“The most critical significance of this work was in finding the band gap,” said Kaiyuan Yao, a graduate student researcher at Berkeley Lab and the University of California, Berkeley, who served as the lead author of the research paper.

Moly sulfide, Schuck also noted, is “extremely sensitive to its local environment,” which makes it a prime candidate for use in a range of sensors. Because it is highly sensitive to both optical and electronic effects, it could translate incoming light into electronic signals and vice versa.

Schuck said the team hopes to use a suite of techniques at the Molecular Foundry to create other types of monolayer materials and samples of stacked 2-D layers, and to obtain definitive band gap measurements for these, too. “It turns out no one yet knows the band gaps for some of these other materials,” he said.

The team also has expertise in the use of a nanoscale probe to map the electronic behavior across a given sample.

Borys added, “We certainly hope this work seeds further studies on other 2-D semiconductor systems.”

The Molecular Foundry is a DOE Office of Science User Facility that provides free access to state-of-the-art equipment and multidisciplinary expertise in nanoscale science to visiting scientists.

Researchers from the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab, and from Arizona State University also participated in this study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation.

# # #

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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