Engineering with atomically thin materials: making crystal grains, strains, and nanoporous membranes
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Monolayer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is a three-atom-thick direct band gap semiconductor, which has received considerable attention for use as a channel material in atomically thin transistors, photodetectors, excitonic LED’s, and many other potential applications. It is also a mechanically exceptional material with a large stiffness and flexibility, and can withstand very large strains (11%) before rupture. In this dissertation we investigated the mechanics of the stiffness and adhesion forces in atomically thin MoS2 membranes, and how biaxial strains can be used to induce large modulations in the band structure of the material. First, we used chemical vapor deposition (CVD) to grow MoS2 crystals that are highly impermeable to gas, and used a pressure difference across suspended membranes to induce large biaxial strains. We demonstrated the continuous and reversible tuning of the optical band gap of suspended monolayer membranes by as much as 500 meV, and induced strains of as much as 5.6% before rupture. We observed the effect of strain on the energy and intensity of the peaks in the photoluminescence (PL) and Raman spectra and found their linear strain tuning rates, then report evidence for the strain tuning of higher level optical transitions. Second, we determined the Young’s modulus and works of separation and adhesion of MoS2 membranes, and found that adhesion hysteresis is an important effect in determining the behavior of our systems. Finally, we investigated the use of atomically thin materials as nanofiltration membranes, by perforating the material with nanopores which selectively permit the transport of smaller molecules while rejecting larger ones. We studied ion transport through nanopores in graphene membranes and demonstrate that in-situ atomic force microscope measurements in liquid are a powerful way to reveal occlusions and contaminants around the pores - work which will aid future researchers in further unveiling the properties of these fascinating systems.