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Atomic reconstruction in twisted bilayers of transition metal dichalcogenides


Van der Waals heterostructures form a unique class of layered artificial solids in which physical properties can be manipulated through controlled composition, order and relative rotation of adjacent atomic planes. Here we use atomic-resolution transmission electron microscopy to reveal the lattice reconstruction in twisted bilayers of the transition metal dichalcogenides, MoS2 and WS2. For twisted 3R bilayers, a tessellated pattern of mirror-reflected triangular 3R domains emerges, separated by a network of partial dislocations for twist angles θ < 2°. The electronic properties of these 3R domains, featuring layer-polarized conduction-band states caused by lack of both inversion and mirror symmetry, appear to be qualitatively different from those of 2H transition metal dichalcogenides. For twisted 2H bilayers, stable 2H domains dominate, with nuclei of a second metastable phase. This appears as a kagome-like pattern at θ ≈ 2°, transitioning at θ → 0 to a hexagonal array of screw dislocations separating large-area 2H domains. Tunnelling measurements show that such reconstruction creates strong piezoelectric textures, opening a new avenue for engineering of 2D material properties.

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Fig. 1: Lattice domains in homo- and hetero-bilayers of MoS2 and WS2.
Fig. 2: Lattice reconstruction in twisted WS2 homo-bilayers.
Fig. 3: Evolution of commensurate domains with twist angle for AP-WS2 and AP-MoS2 homo-bilayers.
Fig. 4: Electronic properties of twisted bilayers.

Data availability

Additional data related to this paper is available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

Code availability

The computer code used for the image filtering is available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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We acknowledge support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grants EP/N010345/1, EP/P009050/1, EP/S019367/1, EP/S030719/1, EP/P01139X/1, EP/R513374/1 and the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) Graphene-NOWNANO, and the EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship. We also acknowledge support from the European Graphene Flagship Project, European Quantum Technology Flagship Project 2D-SIPC (820378), European Research Council (ERC) Synergy Grant Hetero2D, ERC Starter grant EvoluTEM (715502), Royal Society and Lloyd Register Foundation Nanotechnology grant. V.E. (reconstruction simulations) acknowledges the support of the Russian Science Foundation (project no. 16-12-10411). P.H.B. acknowledges support from the Leverhulme Trust (Research Fellowship grant RF-2019-460). We thank Diamond Light Source for access and support in use of the electron Physical Science Imaging Centre (Instrument E02 and proposal numbers EM19315 and MG21597) that contributed to the results presented here.

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Authors and Affiliations



V.I.F., S.J.H. and R.G. conceived the study. A.W. fabricated samples for TEM and cAFM. S.J.H., Y.Z. and N.C. performed TEM measurements. D.H. performed TEM simulations. N.C. processed the TEM data. N.C. and M.Z. provided custom TEM grids. V.E., V.Z., S.M., C.Y and V.I.F. provided DFT and multicale modelling and interpretation of the observations. A.S. and A.W. performed cAFM measurements with the help of T.H.B. and P.H.B. A.W. and J.Z. fabricated ARPES samples. A.G., A.B. and N.R.W. performed ARPES measurements. R.G., V.I.F., S.J.H. and A.W. wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the discussions and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Vladimir I. Fal’ko, Sarah J. Haigh or Roman Gorbachev.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Sergei Kalinin and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information, Figs. 1–21 and refs. 1–19.

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Weston, A., Zou, Y., Enaldiev, V. et al. Atomic reconstruction in twisted bilayers of transition metal dichalcogenides. Nat. Nanotechnol. 15, 592–597 (2020).

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