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Thinnest semiconductor grown from MoS2 crystals

Posted: 29 May 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MoS2? thinnest semiconductor? dichalcogenides?

Scientists from Columbia University have crafted what they claim as the world's thinnest semiconductor that is grown from high-quality crystals of molybdenum disulphide (MoS2).

The researchers studied how the crystals stitch together at the atomic scale to form continuous sheets. What they saw were striking images of symmetrical stars and triangles hundreds of microns across. The images helped them understand the optical and electronic properties of the newly developed material. MoS2 can be either conducting or insulating to form the basic "on-off switch" for all digital electronics.

"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," said 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."

MoS2 crystals

False-colour electron microscopy image: Red, yellow, and blue colors represent two dominant crystal orientations that are stitched together by a line of atomic defects.

This multi-disciplinary collaboration by the Energy Frontier Research Centre 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," said Arend van der Zande, a research fellow at the Columbia Energy Frontier Research Centre 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 thick20 thousand times smaller than a human hair!"

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