Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers sew atomic lattices seamlessly together


Joining different kinds of materials can lead to all kinds of breakthroughs. It's an essential skill that allowed humans to make everything from skyscrapers (by reinforcing concrete with steel) to solar cells (by layering materials to herd along electrons).

In electronics, joining different materials produces heterojunctions-the most fundamental components in solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. The smoother the seam between two materials, the more easily electrons flow across it; essential for how well the electronic devices function. But they're made up of crystals-rigid lattices of atoms, which may have very different spacing-and they don't take kindly to being mashed together.

Scientists with the University of Chicago revealed a technique to 'sew' two patches of crystals seamlessly together at the atomic level to create atomically-thin fabrics.

Credit: Courtesy Park et al

In a study published March 8 in Science, scientists with the University of Chicago and Cornell revealed a technique to "sew" two patches of crystals seamlessly together at the atomic level to create atomically-thin fabrics.

The team wanted to do this by stitching different fabric-like, three-atom-thick crystals. "Usually these are grown in stages under very different conditions; grow one material first, stop the growth, change the condition, and start it again to grow another material," said Jiwoong Park, professor of chemistry in the James Franck Institute and the Institute for Molecular Engineering and a lead author on the study.

Instead, they developed a new process to find the perfect window that would work for both materials in a constant environment, so they could grow the entire crystal in a single session.

The resulting single-layer materials are the most perfectly aligned ever grown, Park said. The gentler transition meant that at the points where the two lattices meet, one lattice stretches or grows to meet the other-instead of leaving holes or other defects.

The atomic seams are so tight, in fact, that when they looked up close using scanning electron microscopes, they saw that the larger of the two materials puckers a little around the joint.

They decided to test its performance in one of the most widely used electronic devices: a diode. Two different kinds of material are joined, and electrons are supposed to be able to flow one way through the "fabric," but not the other.

The diode lit up. "It was exciting to see these three-atom-thick LEDs glowing. We saw excellent performance-the best known for these types of materials," said Saien Xie, a graduate student and first author on the paper.

The discovery opens up some interesting ideas for electronics. Devices like LEDs are currently stacked in layers-3D versus 2D, and are usually on a rigid surface. But Park said the new technique could open up new configurations, like flexible LEDs or atoms-thick 2D circuits that work both horizontally and laterally.

He also noted that the stretching and compressing changed the optical properties-the color-of the crystals due to the quantum mechanical effects. This suggests potential for light sensors and LEDs that could be tuned to different colors, for example, or strain-sensing fabrics that change color as they're stretched.

"This is so unknown that we don't even know all the possibilities it holds yet," Park said. "Even two years ago it would have been unimaginable."


This work was carried out in collaboration with co-lead authors David A. Muller and Robert A. DiStasio Jr. at Cornell University. Other coauthors included University of Chicago postdoctoral scholars Kibum Kang and Chibeom Park and graduate student Preeti Poddar, as well as Cornell University postdoctoral scholar Ka Un Lao and graduate students Lijie Tu, Yimo Han, and Lujie Huang. The study used computing resources at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility at Argonne National Laboratory.

Citation: "Coherent, atomically-thin transition-metal dichalcogenide superlattices with engineered strain." Xie et. al, Science, March 8, 2018.

Media Contact

Louise Lerner


Louise Lerner | EurekAlert!

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires
19.03.2018 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht Researchers demonstrate existence of new form of electronic matter
15.03.2018 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>