STM Study of 2D Metal Chalcogenides and Heterostructures

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

In recent years, two-dimensional (2D) van der Waals (vdW) materials have aroused much interest for their unique structural, thermal, optical, and electronic properties and have become a hot topic in condensed matter physics and material science. Many research methods, including scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), optical and transport measurements, have been used to investigate these unique properties. Among them, STM stands out as a powerful characterization tool with atomic resolution and is capable of simultaneously revealing both atomic structures and local electronic properties. This dissertation focuses on scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy (STM/S) investigation of 2D metal chalcogenides and heterostructures.

The first part of the dissertation focuses on the continuous interface in WS2/MoS2 heterostructures grown by the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method. We observed a closed interface between the MoS2 monolayer and the heterobilayer with atomic resolution. Furthermore, our scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS) results and density functional theory (DFT) calculations revealed band gaps of the heterobilayer and the MoS2 monolayer agree with previously reported values for MoS2 monolayer and MoS2/WS2 heterobilayer on SiO2 fabricated through the mechanical exfoliation method. The results could deepen our understanding of the growth mechanism, interlayer interactions and electronic structures of 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMD) heterostructures synthesized via CVD.

The second part of the dissertation focuses on phase transformation in 2D In2Se3. We observed that 2D In2Se3 layers with thickness ranging from single to ~20 layers stabilized at the beta phase with a superstructure at room temperature. After cooling down to around 180 K, the beta phase converted to a more stable beta' phase that was distinct from previously reported phases in 2D In2Se3. The kinetics of the reversible thermally driven beta-to-beta' phase transformation was investigated by temperature dependent transmission electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy, combined with the expected minimum-energy pathways obtained from our first-principles calculations. Furthermore, DFT calculations reveal in-plane ferroelectricity in the beta' phase. STS measurements show that the indirect bandgap of monolayer beta' In2Se3 is 2.50 eV, which is larger than that of the multilayer form with a measured value of 2.05 eV. Our results on the reversible thermally driven phase transformation in 2D In2Se3 will provide insights to tune the functionalities of 2D In2Se3 and other emerging 2D ferroelectric materials and shed light on their numerous potential applications like non-volatile memory devices.

The third part of the dissertation focuses on domain boundaries in 2D ferroelectric In2Se3. The atomic structure of domain boundaries in two-dimensional (2D) ferroelectric beta' In2Se3 is visualized with scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy (STM/S) combined with DFT calculations. A double-barrier energy potential across the 60° tail to tail domain boundaries in monolayer beta' In2Se3 is also revealed. The results will deepen our understanding of domain boundaries in 2D ferroelectric materials and stimulate innovative applications of these materials.

2D materials, Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM), Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMD), Ferroelectricity