Exfoliation of natural van der Waals heterostructures to a single unit cell thickness

Matěj Velický, Peter S. Toth, Alexander M. Rakowski, Aidan P. Rooney, Aleksey Kozikov, Colin R. Woods, Artem Mishchenko, Laura Fumagalli, Jun Yin, Viktor Zolyomi, Thanasis Georgiou, Sarah J. Haigh, Kostya S. Novoselov, Robert A. W. Dryfe

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Weak interlayer interactions in van der Waals crystals facilitate their mechanical exfoliation to monolayer and few-layer two-dimensional materials, which often exhibit striking physical phenomena absent in their bulk form. Here we utilize mechanical exfoliation to produce a two-dimensional form of a mineral franckeite and show that the phase segregation of chemical species into discrete layers at the sub-nanometre scale facilitates franckeite’s layered structure and basal cleavage down to a single unit cell thickness. This behaviour is likely to be common in a wider family of complex minerals and could be exploited for a single-step synthesis of van der Waals heterostructures, as an alternative to artificial stacking of individual two-dimensional crystals. We demonstrate p-type electrical conductivity and remarkable electrochemical properties of the exfoliated crystals, showing promise for a range of applications, and use the density functional theory calculations of franckeite’s electronic band structure to rationalize the experimental results.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14410
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Main text: 19 pages, 5 figures; Supplementary Information: 19 pages, 10 figures


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