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To this day, it had been quite a challenge to shape and structure 2-dimensional materials. Conventional lithography solutions, for example, potent chemicals or electrically charged particles have a tendency to damage the properties of the material at hand.
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How it works
Researchers at EPFL led by Xia Liu found a way to utilize a mini-scalpel and heat to sublimate the links between the atoms. Co-author Ana Conde Rubio explains: "Our technology is similar to the art of paper-cutting, which is common in this region of Switzerland, but on a much smaller scale". She remarked that, in this process, researchers heat the substance to make it more flexible and sometimes even turn it into gas. This makes carving on 2D materials significantly easier.
In this research, the team utilized a compound named molybdenum ditelluride (MoTe2), a 2D material resembling graphene. The material, which is smaller than a nanometer in thickness, is put on a polymer that is reactive to temperature and skips liquid state altogether and sublimates when heated.
What's this technology useful for?
With this technology, researchers are able to carve precise patterns on 2D surfaces. With the help of a computerized system to handle heating and cooling, they can achieve high-precision in their work. Liu says "A lot of 2D materials are semi-conductors and can be integrated into electronic devices". The fields which it would apply to include: nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, and nanobiotechnology.