Unraveling the 3D Atomic Structure of a Suspended Graphene/hBN van der Waals Heterostructure

G Argentero and A Mittelberger and MRA Monazam and Y Cao and TJ Pennycook and C Mangler and C Kramberger and J Kotakoski and AK Geim and JC Meyer, NANO LETTERS, 17, 1409-1416 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b04360

In this work we demonstrate that a free-standing van der Waals heterostructure, usually regarded as a flat object, can exhibit an intrinsic buckled atomic structure resulting from the interaction between two layers with a small lattice mismatch. We studied a freely suspended membrane of well-aligned graphene on a hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) monolayer by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning TEM (STEM). We developed a detection method in the STEM that is capable of recording the direction of the scattered electron beam and that is extremely sensitive to the local stacking of atoms. A comparison between experimental data and simulated models shows that the heterostructure effectively bends in the out-of-plane direction, producing an undulated structure having a periodicity that matches the moire wavelength. We attribute this rippling to the interlayer interaction and also show how this affects the intralayer strain in each layer.

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