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Probing van der Waals interactions at two-dimensional heterointerfaces

Abstract

Two-dimensional (2D) heterostructures assembled via van der Waals (vdW) interactions have sparked immense interest in fields from physics1,2 to electronics3,4. Understanding the vdW interaction at these heterointerfaces is critical for the sophisticated construction and manipulation of these 2D heterostructures. However, previous experimental research has mainly focused on the interlayer interactions in homogeneous graphite crystals5,6 and the interactions between graphene and substrates7. Theoretically, although a variety of vdW methods have been incorporated in density functional theory to probe the interactions of homogeneous vdW crystals, the reliability of these vdW methods in 2D heterostructures remains to be verified. Here, we show, by contact-splitting transfer of graphite from hexagonal boron nitride (BN) to molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), that graphite experiences a stronger vdW interaction with MoS2 than with boron nitride. Quantitative measurements using a graphite-wrapped atomic force microscope tip show that the critical adhesion pressures between BN and graphite and MoS2 and graphite are respectively 0.953 and 1.028 times that between graphite and graphite. The results are consistent with the prediction based on Lifshitz theory, implying an important role of material dielectric function in the vdW interactions at heterointerfaces. These findings offer us more freedom in the construction of 2D heterostructures, and a technique to disassemble 2D heterostructures is demonstrated.

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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Journal peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks José María Gomez-Rodriguez, Kian Ping Loh and other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the NSF of China (grants nos. 51535005, 11702132, 51472117 and 51702159) and NSF of Jiangsu Province (grants nos. BK20170770 and BK20170791). The authors also acknowledge support from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grants nos. 2016M600408, 2017T100362 and 2017M610328), Jiangsu Postdoctoral Research Funds (no. 1701141B), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (no. NC2018001) and a project funded by the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions.

Author information

W.G., J.Y. and B.L. designed the experimental strategy. B.L., J.Y. and H.W. performed the experiments. X. Liu designed and performed the theoretical study. All authors contributed to the analysis and discussion. W.G., B.L., J.Y. and X. Liu wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Wanlin Guo.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Results, Fig. 1–8 and Table 1.

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Fig. 1: Critical adhesion force between 2D materials measured by an atomic force microscope.
Fig. 2: Contact-splitting competition test of BN–graphite–MoS2.
Fig. 3: Interlayer interactions calculated by DFT-based vdW methods.
Fig. 4: Interlayer force derived from Lifshitz theory.
Fig. 5: Disassembling the graphite–BN–graphite heterostructure, flake by flake, using MoS2 as a manipulator.