Theory of thin-film-mediated exfoliation of van der Waals bonded layered materials

H Sun and EW Sirott and J Mastandrea and HM Gramling and YZ Zhou and M Poschmann and HK Taylor and JW Ager and DC Chrzan, PHYSICAL REVIEW MATERIALS, 2, 094004 (2018).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevMaterials.2.094004

Tape-mediated mechanical exfoliation of layered materials is known to require multiple exfoliation steps and to produce small, irregularly shaped monolayer samples. Recently, it has been demonstrated experimentally that deposition of a thin layer of Au on the layer to be exfoliated prior to application of the tape can yield large monolayer samples of transition metal dichalcogenides in one exfoliation step. Here the mechanism underlying these improvements is explored using atomic scale total energy calculations to study thin-film-assisted mechanical exfoliation of both MoS2 and graphene. This study focuses on the influence of epitaxially induced biaxial strain on the exfoliated layer and how this impacts monolayer selectivity during exfoliation. For graphite modeled with a reactive empirical bond order (REBO) plus a Lennard-Jones potential, tensile biaxial strain favors monolayer exfoliation, whereas compressive strain favors multilayer exfoliation. For graphite modeled with a more accurate registry-dependent potential and for MoS2 modeled with a REBO plus a Lennard-Jones potential, both compressive and tensile biaxial strains favor monolayer exfoliation. A simple model based on the interlayer potential is introduced to explain these observations, and a linear stability analysis of this model shows that the differences between the thin-film-assisted exfoliation of the considered materials arise from the stacking structure of the layered material and the details of the interlayer potential. The potential for using this simple model to screen suitable metal films for exfoliation of other 2D materials is discussed.

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