First fully 2D field-effect transistor

May lead to faster electronic devices
June 4, 2014

Berkeley Lab researchers fabricated the first fully 2D field-effect transistor from layers of molybdenum disulfide, hexagonal boron nitride, and graphene held together by van der Waals bonding (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Faster electronic device architectures are in the offing with the unveiling of the world’s first fully two-dimensional field-effect transistor (FET) by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Unlike conventional FETs made from silicon, these 2D (planar) FETs suffer no performance drop-off under high voltages and provide high electron mobility, even when scaled down to a single layer in thickness.

The 2D heterostructures were fabricated from layers of molybdenum disulfide, hexagonal boron nitride, and graphene stacked via van der Waals (attractive force between atoms, molecules, and surfaces) interactions.

New class of electronic devices

“Our work represents an important stepping stone towards the realization of a new class of electronic devices in which interfaces based on van der Waals interactions rather than covalent bonding provide an unprecedented degree of control in material engineering and device exploration,” said Ali Javey, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer science, who led this research, published in ACS Nano. “The results demonstrate the promise of using an all-layered material system for future electronic applications.”

FETs, so-called because an electrical signal sent through one electrode creates an electrical current throughout the device, are one of the pillars of the electronics industry, ubiquitous to computers, cell phones, tablets, pads and virtually every other widely used electronic device.

All FETs are comprised of gate, source and drain electrodes connected by a channel through which a charge-carrier — either electrons or holes — flow.

Mismatches between the crystal structure and atomic lattices of these individual components result in rough surfaces — often with dangling chemical bonds — that degrade charge-carrier mobility, especially at high electrical fields, thus the move to a design with layers that are smooth even at atomic dimensions.

Smooth layers

“In constructing our 2D FETs so that each component is made from layered materials with van der Waals interfaces, we provide a unique device structure in which the thickness of each component is well-defined without any surface roughness, not even at the atomic level,” Javey says.

“The van der Waals bonding of the interfaces and the use of a multi-step transfer process present a platform for making complex devices based on crystalline layers without the constraints of lattice parameters that often limit the growth and performance of conventional heterojunction materials.”

Javey and his team fabricated their 2D FETs using the transition-metal dichalcogenide molybdenum disulfide as the electron-carrying channel, hexagonal boron nitride as the gate insulator, and graphene as the source, drain and gate electrodes. All of these constituent materials are single crystals held together by van der Waals bonding.

For the 2D FETs produced in this study, mechanical exfoliation (peeling off layers from a material) was used to create the layered components. In the future, Javey and his team will look into growing these heterogeneous layers directly on a substrate. They will also look to scale down the thickness of individual components to a monolayer and the lengths of the channels to molecular-scale dimensions.

This research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Abstract of ACS Nano paper

We demonstrate field-effect transistors using heterogeneously stacked two-dimensional materials for all of the components, including the semiconductor, insulator, and metal layers. Specifically, MoS2 is used as the active channel material, hexagonal-BN as the top-gate dielectric, and graphene as the source/drain and the top-gate contacts. This transistor exhibits n-type behavior with an ON/OFF current ratio of >106, and an electron mobility of 33 cm2/V·s. Uniquely, the mobility does not degrade at high gate voltages, presenting an important advantage over conventional Si transistors where enhanced surface roughness scattering severely reduces carrier mobilities at high gate-fields. A WSe2–MoS2 diode with graphene contacts is also demonstrated. The diode exhibits excellent rectification behavior and a low reverse bias current, suggesting high quality interfaces between the stacked layers. In this work, all interfaces are based on van der Waals bonding, presenting a unique device architecture where crystalline, layered materials with atomically uniform thicknesses are stacked on demand, without the lattice parameter constraints. The results demonstrate the promise of using an all-layered material system for future electronic applications.