Epitaxy—the growth of a crystalline material on a substrate—is crucial for the semiconductor industry, but is often limited by the need for lattice matching between the two material systems. This strict requirement is relaxed for van der Waals epitaxy1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, in which epitaxy on layered or two-dimensional (2D) materials is mediated by weak van der Waals interactions, and which also allows facile layer release from 2D surfaces3,8. It has been thought that 2D materials are the only seed layers for van der Waals epitaxy3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. However, the substrates below 2D materials may still interact with the layers grown during epitaxy (epilayers), as in the case of the so-called wetting transparency documented for graphene11,12,13. Here we show that the weak van der Waals potential of graphene cannot completely screen the stronger potential field of many substrates, which enables epitaxial growth to occur despite its presence. We use density functional theory calculations to establish that adatoms will experience remote epitaxial registry with a substrate through a substrate–epilayer gap of up to nine ångströms; this gap can accommodate a monolayer of graphene. We confirm the predictions with homoepitaxial growth of GaAs(001) on GaAs(001) substrates through monolayer graphene, and show that the approach is also applicable to InP and GaP. The grown single-crystalline films are rapidly released from the graphene-coated substrate and perform as well as conventionally prepared films when incorporated in light-emitting devices. This technique enables any type of semiconductor film to be copied from underlying substrates through 2D materials, and then the resultant epilayer to be rapidly released and transferred to a substrate of interest. This process is particularly attractive in the context of non-silicon electronics and photonics, where the ability to re-use the graphene-coated substrates8 allows savings on the high cost of non-silicon substrates.

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This work was partly supported by the One to One Joint Research Project of the MI/MIT Cooperative Program. We thank the LG Electronics R&D Center for partial support of the GaAs 2DLT programme. We also thank the LAM Research Foundation, Analog Devices, Inc. and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory for general support; and Y. S. Lee of IBM, D. Sadana of IBM, A. Yoon of LAM Research, R. J. Molnar of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, C. V. Thompson of MIT, and J. Lee of LG Electronics for discussions. J. Kim thanks M. Baldo, D. Ha, and K. Jung of MIT for their assistance with electroluminescence measurements. S.S.C. thanks the National Science Foundation for a graduate research fellowship (grant no. 1122374). Y. S. and J. Kong thank support for Y.S. from NSF (DMR/ECCS – 1509197). J. H and J.M.J thank support for J.M.J from NSF (MRSEC DMR-1420451).

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Author notes

    • Yunjo Kim
    • , Samuel S. Cruz
    •  & Kyusang Lee

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Yunjo Kim
    • , Samuel S. Cruz
    • , Kyusang Lee
    • , Babatunde O. Alawode
    • , Chanyeol Choi
    • , Wei Kong
    • , Shinhyun Choi
    • , Kuan Qiao
    • , Ibraheem Almansouri
    • , Alexie M. Kolpak
    •  & Jeehwan Kim
  2. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Yi Song
    •  & Jing Kong
  3. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA

    • Jared M. Johnson
    •  & Jinwoo Hwang
  4. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Christopher Heidelberger
    • , Eugene A. Fitzgerald
    •  & Jeehwan Kim
  5. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi 54224, United Arab Emirates

    • Ibraheem Almansouri
  6. Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Jing Kong
    •  & Jeehwan Kim


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J. Kim conceived the 2DLT process, designed experiments, and directed the team. Y.K., S.S.C., K.L., C.C., Y.S., C.H., W.K., S.C., K.Q. and I.A. performed the epitaxial growths/transfer experiments and characterization. K.L. fabricated and measured LED devices. J.M.J. and J.H. performed TEM analysis. B.O.A. contributed to the computational model and DFT simulation. All authors contributed to the discussion and analysis of the results regarding the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Jeehwan Kim.

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