Riveting two-dimensional materials: exploring strain physics in atomically thin crystals with microelectromechanical systems
Christopher, Jason Woodrow
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Two dimensional (2D) materials can withstand an order of magnitude more strain than their bulk counterparts, which results in dramatic changes to electrical, thermal and optical properties. These changes can be harnessed for technological applications such as tunable light emitting diodes or field effect transistors, or utilized to explore novel physics like exciton confinement, pseudo-magnetic fields (PMFs), and even quantum gravity. However, current techniques for straining atomically thin materials offer limited control over the strain field, and require bulky pressure chambers or large beam bending equipment. This dissertation describes the development of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) as a platform for precisely controlling the magnitude and orientation of the strain field in 2D materials. MEMS are a versatile platform for studying strain physics. Mechanical, electrical, thermal and optical probes can all be easily incorporated into their design. Further, because of their small size and compatibility with electronics manufacturing methods, there is an achievable pathway from the laboratory bench to real-world application. Nevertheless, the incorporation of atomically thin crystals with MEMS has been hampered by fragile, non-planer structures and low friction interfaces. We have innovated two techniques to overcome these critical obstacles: micro-structure assisted transfer to place the 2D materials on the MEMS gently and precisely, and micro-riveting to create a slip-free interface between the 2D materials and MEMS. With these advancements, we were able to strain monolayer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) to greater than 1\% strain with a MEMS for the first time. The dissertation develops the theoretical underpinnings of this result including original work on the theory of operation of MEMS chevron actuators, and strain generated PMFs in transition metal dichalcogenides, a large class of 2D materials. We conclude the dissertation with a roadmap to guide and inspire future physicists and engineers exploring strain in 2D systems and their applications. The roadmap contains ideas for next-generation fabrication techniques to improve yield, sample quality, and add capabilities. We have also included in the roadmap proposals for experiments such as a speculative technique for realizing topological quantum field theories that mimics recent theoretical wire construction methods.