Engineers Put Two-Dimensional Semiconductors under Strain


A key part of designing semiconductors is engineering them with built-in strain, which changes the semi-conductors’ optical and electrical properties. That’s old news for standard, 3D semiconductors. But now, researchers have found a way to engineer strain into cutting-edge two-dimensional (2D) semiconductor materials.

2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) are relatively new materials that have scientists and engineers excited about their potential uses in optoelectronics, energy storage, and nanotransistors. These materials, which include molybdenum disulfide and tungsten diselenide, can be a mere 1–3 atoms thick.

“They’re quite interesting, in a way, because they are not quite a molecule and they’re not quite a traditional semiconductor,” says Ali Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. “Their properties lie somewhere in between.”

Research on these materials is still in the fundamental science stage, but the hope, Javey says, is that...

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