Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new technique for creating high-quality semiconductor thin films at the atomic scale – meaning the films are only one atom thick. The technique can be used to create these thin films on a large scale, sufficient to coat wafers that are two inches wide, or larger.
“This could be used to scale current semiconductor technologies down to the atomic scale – lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), computer chips, anything,” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper on the work. “People have been talking about this concept for a long time, but it wasn’t possible. With this discovery, I think it’s possible.”
“The key to our success is the development of a new growth mechanism, a self-limiting growth,” Cao says. The researchers can precisely control the thickness of the MoS2 layer by controlling the partial pressure and vapor pressure in the furnace. Partial pressure is the tendency of atoms or molecules suspended in the air to condense into a solid and settle onto the substrate. Vapor pressure is the tendency of solid atoms or molecules on the substrate to vaporize and rise into the air.