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2D molybdenum shows potential for LED prod'n

Posted: 11 Apr 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Rice University  Nanyang Technological University  LED  molybdenum diselenide  CVD 

A team of researchers at Rice University and Nanyang Technological University has developed a scalable method for making one-atom-thick layers of molybdenum diselenide that is a semiconductor similar to graphene but flaunts better properties for making devices such as LEDs and switchable transistors. The method for making 2D molybdenum diselenide uses chemical vapour deposition (CVD) and is widely used by the semiconductor and materials industries to make thin films of silicon, carbon fibres and other materials.

This method will allow us to exploit the properties of molybdenum diselenide in a number of applications, said study leader Pulickel Ajayan, chair of Rice's Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering. Unlike graphene, which can now easily be made in large sheets, many interesting 2D materials remain difficult to synthesize. Now that we have a stable, efficient way to produce 2D molybdenum diselenide, we are planning to expand this robust procedure to other 2D materials.

2D molybdenum diselenide

This scanning transmission electron microscope image shows the individual atoms in a 2D sheet of molybdenum diselenide. (Credit: E. Ringe/Rice University)

In the Rice study, Ajayan and colleagues tested their atomically thin layers of molybdenum diselenide by building a field effect transistor (FET), a commonly used device in the microelectronic industry. Tests of the FET found the electronic properties of the molybdenum diselenide layers were better than those of molybdenum disulfide; the latter is a similar material that has been more extensively studied because it was easier to fabricate. For example, the FET tests found that the electron mobility of Rice's molybdenum diselenide was higher than that of CVD-grown, molybdenum disulfide.

In solid-state physics, electron mobility refers to how quickly electrons pass through a metal or semiconductor in the presence of an electric field. Materials with high electron mobility are often preferred to reduce power consumption and heating in microelectronic devices.

Molybdenum diselenide and molybdenum disulfide each belong to a class of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides; TMDCs are so named because they consist of two elements, a transition metal like molybdenum or tungsten and a 'chalcogen' like sulfur, selenium or tellurium.

TMDCs have attracted intense interest from materials scientists because they have an atomic structure similar to graphene, the pure carbon wonder materials that attracted the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics. Graphene and similar materials are often referred to as 2D because they are only one atom thick. Graphene has extraordinary electronic properties. For example, its electron mobility is tens of thousands of times greater than that of TMDCs.

However, 2D TMDCs such as molybdenum diselenide have attracted intense interest because their electronic properties are complementary to graphene. For example, pure graphene has no bandgap, a useful electronic property that engineers can exploit to make FETs that are easily switched on and off.

As with many nanomaterials, scientists have found that the physical properties of TMDCs change markedly when the material has nanoscale properties. For example, a slab of molybdenum diselenide that is even a micron thick has an 'indirect' bandgap while a 2D sheet of molybdenum diselenide has a 'direct' bandgap. The difference is important for electronics because direct-bandgap materials can be used to make switchable transistors and sensitive photodetectors.

One of the driving forces in Rice's Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering is the close collaborations that develop between the people who are focused on synthesis and those of us involved with characterization, said Ringe. We hope this will be the beginning of a series of new protocols to reliably synthesise a variety of 2D materials.

Additional study co-authors include Xingli Wang, Yongji Gong, Gang Shi, Kunttal Keyshar, Gonglan Ye, Robert Vajtai and Jun Lou, all of Rice, and Wai Leong Chow, Zheng Liu and Beng Kang Tay, all of Nanyang Technological University.

- Paul Buckley
  EE Times Europe





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