Defect Dynamics in 2-D MoS2 Probed by Using Machine Learning, Atomistic Simulations, and High-Resolution Microscopy

TK Patra and F Zhang and DS Schulman and H Chan and MJ Cherukara and M Terrones and S Das and B Narayanan and SKRS Sankaranarayanan, ACS NANO, 12, 8006-8016 (2018).

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b02844

Structural defects govern various physical, chemical, and optoelectronic properties of two-dimensional transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). A fundamental understanding of the spatial distribution and dynamics of defects in these low-dimensional systems is critical for advances in nanotechnology. However, such understanding has remained elusive primarily due to the inaccessibility of (a) necessary time scales via standard atomistic simulations and (b) required spatiotemporal resolution in experiments. Here, we take advantage of supervised machine learning, in situ high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to overcome these limitations. We combine genetic algorithms (GA) with MD to investigate the extended structure of point defects, their dynamical evolution, and their role in inducing the phase transition between the semiconducting (2H) and metallic (1T) phase in monolayer MoS2. GA-based structural optimization is used to identify the long-range structure of randomly distributed point defects (sulfur vacancies) densities. Regardless of the density, we find that organization of sulfur vacancies into extended lines is the most energetically favorable. HRTEM validates these findings and suggests a phase transformation from the 2H-to-1T phase that is localized near these extended defects when exposed to high electron beam doses. MD simulations elucidate the molecular mechanism driving the onset of the 2H to IT transformation and indicate that finite amounts of 1T phase can be retained by increasing the defect concentration and temperature. This work significantly advances the current understanding of defect structure/evolution and structural transitions in 2D TMDs, which is crucial for designing nanoscale devices with desired functionality.

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