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Domino-like stacking order switching in twisted monolayer–multilayer graphene


Atomic reconstruction has been widely observed in two-dimensional van der Waals structures with small twist angles1,2,3,4,5,6,7. This unusual behaviour leads to many novel phenomena, including strong electronic correlation, spontaneous ferromagnetism and topologically protected states1,5,8,9,10,11,12,13,14. Nevertheless, atomic reconstruction typically occurs spontaneously, exhibiting only one single stable state. Using conductive atomic force microscopy, here we show that, for small-angle twisted monolayer–multilayer graphene, there exist two metastable reconstruction states with distinct stacking orders and strain soliton structures. More importantly, we demonstrate that these two reconstruction states can be reversibly switched, and the switching can propagate spontaneously in an unusual domino-like fashion. Assisted by lattice-resolved conductive atomic force microscopy imaging and atomistic simulations, the detailed structure of the strain soliton networks has been identified and the associated propagation mechanism is attributed to the strong mechanical coupling among solitons. The fine structure of the bistable states is critical for understanding the unique properties of van der Waals structures with tiny twists, and the switching mechanism offers a viable means for manipulating their stacking states.

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Fig. 1: Reversible stacking order switching in twisted monolayer–multilayer graphene.
Fig. 2: Analysis of possible pathway for stacking order switching.
Fig. 3: MD simulation and DFT-based ACQ model calculation results.
Fig. 4: The switching and propagation of stacking order switching.

Data availability

The authors declare that the main data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper. Extra data are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.


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We acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos 12025203 (Q.L.), 11921002 (X.-Q.F.), 51935006 (T.M.), 11890671 (Q.L.), 51705017 (L.G.) and 11890682 (L.L.)), the State Key Laboratory of Tribology at Tsinghua University (grant no. SKLT2022A01 (Q.L.)), the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no. XDB36000000 (L.L.)), China National Postdoctoral Program for Innovative Talents (BX2021163 (S.Z.)) and the Shuimu Tsinghua Scholar program of Tsinghua University (S.Z.). Computations were carried out on the ‘Explorer 100’ cluster system of Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology.

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Authors and Affiliations



Q.L. conceived the project. S.Z. performed the c-AFM and STM experiments and carried out the strain and structural switching analyses. Q.X. and T.M. carried out the MD simulations. Y.H., M.Z. and L.L. prepared the twisted graphene samples. A.S., Y.M., L.G. and T.M. carried out the first-principles calculations. S.Z., Q.X., A.S., L.G., T.M., X.-Q.F. and Q.L. wrote the paper. All authors analysed and discussed the results and approved the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Tianbao Ma, Xi-Qiao Feng or Qunyang Li.

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Nature Materials thanks Vincent Meunier and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–24.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Raw data for Fig. 1c,d.

Source Data Fig. 2

Raw data for Fig. 2c.

Source Data Fig. 3

Raw data for Fig. 3b,c.

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Zhang, S., Xu, Q., Hou, Y. et al. Domino-like stacking order switching in twisted monolayer–multilayer graphene. Nat. Mater. 21, 621–626 (2022).

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