Atomically thin films are of great technological interest because of the potentially useful electronic properties that appear when the thickness of the layer approaches the 2D limit. Such materials tend to form weak bonds on the outside of the layer and are therefore generally believed to be unaffected by substrates which provide a physical support.
However, to make further progress, scientists must rigorously test this hypothesis, not only to better understand monolayer physics, but also because the existence of substrate effects raises the possibility of adjusting the properties of the layer by modifying the substrate. .
As reported in the newspaper Physical examination letters, a team led by Tai-Chang Chiang of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his postdoctoral associate, Meng-Kai Lin, used the Berkeley Lab’s Advanced light source (ALS) to probe changes in the electronic properties of a 2D semiconductor, titanium telluride, when the thickness of a substrate, platinum telluride, was increased. Single-layer titanium telluride is very sensitive to what lies below, making it particularly useful as a test case to study substrate coupling effects.
The results showed that as the thickness of the substrate increased, a dramatic and systematic variation occurred in the monolayer titanium telluride. An electronic phenomenon known as charge density wave, coupled charge and lattice distortion characteristic of single-layer titanium telluride have been removed.
The results, combined with theoretical first-principles simulations, led to a detailed explanation of the results in terms of basic quantum mechanical interactions between the single layer and the tunable substrate, Lin said.
Since the interfacial bond remained weak, the researchers concluded that the observed changes correlated with the transformation of substrates from a semiconductor to a semi-metal as it increased in thickness.
This systematic study illustrates the crucial role that substrate interactions play in the physics of ultra-thin films, Lin said. The scientific understanding resulting from our work also provides a framework for the design and engineering of ultra-thin films for useful and improved properties.
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