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A van der Waals heterostructure with anisotropic transport by stacking atomic 2D crystals

Project Description

Materials or device structures with electron transport anisotropy are not trivial to create, while promising unconventional functionalities, such as 2D logic operations or electron waveguiding. When graphene is placed within a one-dimensional (1D) potential, electron transport through the graphene sheets ceases to be isotropic and configurable anisotropy can be tailored due to the Dirac nature of graphene’s electrons – for example, the group velocity of the electrons in graphene is predicted to become strongly direction-dependent.

The aim of this project is to create a heterostructure of graphene with other, structurally anisotropic, 2D materials, held together by van der Waals interaction; and reveal the signatures of induced anisotropic transport within the graphene sheet.
In contrast to bulk three-dimensional materials, graphene is atomically thin which means that all atoms are effectively on the surface – making it the archetypal two-dimensional (2D) material. As a result, its properties are sensitive to its environment, especially to the substrate it is placed on. Here we will use atomic layers of low-symmetry 2D inorganic materials as the substrate for graphene; these, to a first approximation, provide the 1D potential in which the graphene electrons will move.

We will use scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) at cryogenic temperatures to investigate how this 1D potential will affect the local electronic density of states and the carriers’ group velocity, in both real and reciprocal spaces; and correlate this information with anisotropic transport signatures obtained in directly correlated local electron transport measurements (i.e. all performed in the scanning probe microscope). The experimental results will then be theoretically modelled using a mixture of analytical and computational methods.

Harnessing the behaviour of graphene electrons in tailored potentials (such as provided by our experimental situation) is a route towards realising conceptually new electronic devices.

The project affords an excellent opportunity for training at the interface between quantum technologies, condensed matter physics, and nanomaterials, and involves direct experience within the topical field of 2D materials, which is the most active field in solid state physics currently. Though experimentally-led, it offers the rare opportunity to also develop theoretical skills to support the experiments – a very valuable combination for a future career in this field. The project will be supervised by Dr. Adelina ILIE (Lead supervisor) and Dr. Mucha-Kruczynsk from the Physics Department. Dr. Ilie has extensive experience with atomic-scale investigations of low dimensional materials (including graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides) using scanning probe microscopy, while Dr. Mucha-Kruczynski has strong expertise in the theory of stacked atomic 2D crystals.

The PhD student will be embedded in two cross-University research centres, the Centre for Graphene Science, the Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CNAN); and will also participate in the strong national and international collaborations on related themes of the two supervisors.

Funding Notes

We welcome all-year-round applications from self-funded students and students seeking their own funding from external sources.

How good is research at University of Bath in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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