Article | Published:

Magnetic brightening and control of dark excitons in monolayer WSe2

Nature Nanotechnology volume 12, pages 883888 (2017) | Download Citation


Monolayer transition metal dichalcogenide crystals, as direct-gap materials with strong light–matter interactions, have attracted much recent attention. Because of their spin-polarized valence bands and a predicted spin splitting at the conduction band edges, the lowest-lying excitons in WX2 (X = S, Se) are expected to be spin-forbidden and optically dark. To date, however, there has been no direct experimental probe of these dark excitons. Here, we show how an in-plane magnetic field can brighten the dark excitons in monolayer WSe2 and permit their properties to be observed experimentally. Precise energy levels for both the neutral and charged dark excitons are obtained and compared with ab initio calculations using the GW-BSE approach. As a result of their spin configuration, the brightened dark excitons exhibit much-increased emission and valley lifetimes. These studies directly probe the excitonic spin manifold and reveal the fine spin-splitting at the conduction band edges.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    et al. Emerging photoluminescence in monolayer MoS2. Nano Lett. 10, 1271–1275 (2010).

  2. 2.

    , , , & Atomically thin MoS2: a new direct-gap semiconductor. Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 136805 (2010).

  3. 3.

    et al. Probing excitonic dark states in single-layer tungsten disulphide. Nature 513, 214–218 (2014).

  4. 4.

    et al. Exciton binding energy and nonhydrogenic Rydberg series in monolayer WS2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 076802 (2014).

  5. 5.

    , & Optical spectrum of MoS2: many-body effects and diversity of exciton states. Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 216805 (2013).

  6. 6.

    , , , & Coupled spin and valley physics in monolayers of MoS2 and other group-VI dichalcogenides. Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 196802 (2012).

  7. 7.

    , , & Spin and pseudospins in layered transition metal dichalcogenides. Nat. Phys. 10, 343–350 (2014).

  8. 8.

    et al. Valley-selective circular dichroism of monolayer molybdenum disulphide. Nat. Commun. 3, 887 (2012).

  9. 9.

    , , , & Three-band tight-binding model for monolayers of group-VIB transition metal dichalcogenides. Phys. Rev. B 88, 085433 (2013).

  10. 10.

    et al. K·p theory for two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenide semiconductors. 2D Mater. 2, 022001 (2015).

  11. 11.

    , & Giant spin-orbit-induced spin splitting in two-dimensional transition-metal dichalcogenide semiconductors. Phys. Rev. B 84, 153402 (2011).

  12. 12.

    , , & Experimental evidence for dark excitons in monolayer WSe2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 257403 (2015).

  13. 13.

    et al. WSe2 light-emitting tunneling transistors with enhanced brightness at room temperature. Nano Lett. 15, 8223–8228 (2015).

  14. 14.

    et al. Spin-orbit engineering in transition metal dichalcogenide alloy monolayers. Nat. Commun. 6, 10110 (2015).

  15. 15.

    et al. Probing dark excitons in atomically thin semiconductors via near-field coupling to surface plasmon polaritons. Nat. Nanotech. (2017).

  16. 16.

    et al. Optical generation of excitonic valley coherence in monolayer WSe2. Nat. Nanotech. 8, 634–638 (2013).

  17. 17.

    , , & Valleytronics. The valley Hall effect in MoS2 transistors. Science 344, 1489–1492 (2014).

  18. 18.

    et al. Valley splitting and polarization by the Zeeman effect in monolayer MoSe2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 266804 (2014).

  19. 19.

    et al. Valley Zeeman effect in elementary optical excitations of monolayer WSe2. Nat. Phys. 11, 141–147 (2015).

  20. 20.

    et al. Breaking of valley degeneracy by magnetic field in monolayer MoSe2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 037401 (2015).

  21. 21.

    , & Valley-and spin-polarized Landau levels in monolayer WSe2. Nat. Nanotech. 12, 144–149 (2016).

  22. 22.

    , , & Spectroscopic study of dark excitons in InxGa1−xAs self-assembled quantum dots by a magnetic-field-induced symmetry breaking. Phys. Rev. B 61, 7273–7276 (2000).

  23. 23.

    et al. Optical signatures of the Aharonov-Bohm phase in single-walled carbon nanotubes. Science 304, 1129–1131 (2004).

  24. 24.

    , , & Exciton exchange splitting in wide GaAs quantum wells. Phys Rev. B 60, R16295 (1999).

  25. 25.

    et al. Valley dynamics probed through charged and neutral exciton emission in monolayer WSe2. Phys Rev. B 90, 075413 (2014).

  26. 26.

    et al. Observation of biexcitons in monolayer WSe2. Nat. Phys. 11, 477–481 (2015).

  27. 27.

    et al. Single photon emitters in exfoliated WSe2 structures. Nat. Nanotech. 10, 503–506 (2015).

  28. 28.

    et al. BerkeleyGW: a massively parallel computer package for the calculation of the quasiparticle and optical properties of materials and nanostructures. Comput. Phys. Commun. 183, 1269–1289 (2012).

  29. 29.

    & Electron correlation in semiconductors and insulators: band gaps and quasiparticle energies. Phys. Rev. B 34, 5390–5413 (1986).

  30. 30.

    & Electron-hole excitations and optical spectra from first principles. Phys. Rev. B 62, 4927–4944 (2000).

  31. 31.

    , & Large spin splitting in the conduction band of transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers. Phys. Rev. B 88, 245436 (2013).

  32. 32.

    , , , & Splitting between bright and dark excitons in transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers. Phys. Rev. B 93, 121107 (2016).

  33. 33.

    et al. Resonant internal quantum transitions and femtosecond radiative decay of excitons in monolayer WSe2. Nat. Mater. 14, 889–893 (2015).

  34. 34.

    et al. Carrier and polarization dynamics in monolayer MoS2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 047401 (2014).

  35. 35.

    et al. Exciton valley dynamics probed by Kerr rotation in WSe2 monolayers. Phys. Rev. B. 90, 161302 (2014).

  36. 36.

    & Valley depolarization due to intervalley and intravalley electron-hole exchange interactions in monolayer MoS2. Phys. Rev. B 89, 205303 (2014).

  37. 37.

    et al. Direct measurement of exciton valley coherence in monolayer WSe2. Nat. Phys. 12, 677–682 (2016).

  38. 38.

    et al. Exciton fine structure and spin decoherence in monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides. Phys. Rev. B 89, 201302 (2014).

  39. 39.

    & Polarization analysis of excitons in monolayer and bilayer transition-metal dichalcogenides. Phys. Rev. B 92, 125431 (2015).

  40. 40.

    et al. QUANTUM ESPRESSO: a modular and open-source software project for quantum simulations of materials. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 21, 395502 (2009).

Download references


Support at SLAC/Stanford was provided by the AMOS program, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division, Basic Energy Sciences, US Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC02-76-SFO0515 and the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation's EPiQS Initiative through grant no. GBMF4545 (T.F.H.). for data analysis, and by Air Force Office of Scientific Research through the MURI Center for dynamic magneto-optics under grant. no. FA9550-14-1-0040 for optical measurements. The theoretical studies were supported by the Theory of Materials Program funded by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, US Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231, which supported the GW and GW-BSE calculations, and by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant no. DMR-1508412, which supported the magnetic-field-induced exciton mixing analyses. Computational resources were provided by the DOE at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's NERSC facility and by the NSF through XSEDE resources at NICS. Y.-C.L. and J.A.R. acknowledge the support from the Center for Low Energy Systems Technology (LEAST), one of six centres supported by the STARnet phase of the Focus Center Research Program (FCRP), a Semiconductor Research Corporation program sponsored by MARCO and DARPA. Sample preparation at Columbia University was supported by the NSF MRSEC for Precision Assembly of Superstratic and Superatomic Solids through grant no. DMR-1420634. Z.L. and D.S. acknowledge the support from the US Department of Energy (grant no. DE-FG02-07ER46451) for high-field CW PL measurements that were performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which is supported by the NSF Cooperative Agreement no. DMR-1157490 and the State of Florida.

Author information


  1. Department of Physics, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • Xiao-Xiao Zhang
  2. Department of Applied Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Xiao-Xiao Zhang
    •  & Tony F. Heinz
  3. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

    • Xiao-Xiao Zhang
    •  & Tony F. Heinz
  4. Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Ting Cao
    •  & Steven G. Louie
  5. Materials Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Ting Cao
    •  & Steven G. Louie
  6. National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Tallahassee, Florida 32312, USA

    • Zhengguang Lu
    • , Ying Wang
    • , Zhiqiang Li
    •  & Dmitry Smirnov
  7. Department of Physics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32310, USA

    • Zhengguang Lu
    •  & Ying Wang
  8. Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Center for 2-Dimensional and Layered materials, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

    • Yu-Chuan Lin
    •  & Joshua A. Robinson
  9. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • Fan Zhang
    •  & James C. Hone


  1. Search for Xiao-Xiao Zhang in:

  2. Search for Ting Cao in:

  3. Search for Zhengguang Lu in:

  4. Search for Yu-Chuan Lin in:

  5. Search for Fan Zhang in:

  6. Search for Ying Wang in:

  7. Search for Zhiqiang Li in:

  8. Search for James C. Hone in:

  9. Search for Joshua A. Robinson in:

  10. Search for Dmitry Smirnov in:

  11. Search for Steven G. Louie in:

  12. Search for Tony F. Heinz in:


X.-X.Z. and T.C. conceived the experiment. X.-X.Z. and Z.G.L. performed the experiment, with assistance from Z.Q.L., Y.W. and D.S. at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. T.C. performed the theoretical calculation and analysis under the guidance of S.G.L. The exfoliated samples were prepared by F.Z. under the guidance of J.C.H., and Y.-C.L. and J.A.R. prepared the chemically grown samples. Analysis and interpretation of the data were performed by X.-X.Z. and T.F.H. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tony F. Heinz.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary information

    Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history





Further reading