Researchers from Columbia University and collaborators from Korea's Sungkyunkwan University and Japan's National Institute for Materials Science have reported that graphene can be efficiently doped using a monolayer of tungsten oxyselenide (TOS) that is created by oxidizing a monolayer of tungsten diselenide.
The new results relied on a cleaner technique to manipulate the flow of electricity, giving graphene greater conductivity than metals such as copper and gold, and raising its potential for use in telecommunications systems and quantum computers.
To build modern electrical circuits, researchers control silicon's current-conducting capabilities via doping, which is a process that introduces either negatively charged electrons or positively charged "holes" where electrons used to be. This allows the flow of electricity to be controlled and for silicon involves injecting other atomic elements that can adjust electrons - known as dopants - into its three-dimensional (3D) atomic lattice.
To accommodate smaller sizes as required by the electronics industry, researchers are experimenting with 2D materials, such as graphene. But the common method for doping 3D silicon doesn't work with 2D graphene.
Rather than injecting dopants, researchers have tried layering on a "charge-transfer layer" intended to add or pull away electrons from the graphene. However, previous methods used "dirty" materials in their charge-transfer layers; impurities in these would leave the graphene unevenly doped and impede its ability to conduct electricity.
Now, the new study proposes an improved way. The interdisciplinary team of researchers, led by James Hone and James Teherani at Columbia University, and Won Jong Yoo at Sungkyungkwan University in Korea, describes a clean technique to dope graphene via a charge-transfer layer made of low-impurity tungsten oxyselenide (TOS).
The team generated the new "clean" layer by oxidizing a single atomic layer of another 2D material, tungsten selenide. When TOS was layered on top of graphene, they found that it left the graphene riddled with electricity-conducting holes. Those holes could be fine-tuned to better control the materials' electricity-conducting properties by adding a few atomic layers of tungsten selenide in between the TOS and the graphene.
The researchers found that graphene's electrical mobility was higher with their new doping method than previous attempts. Adding tungsten selenide spacers further increased the mobility to the point where the effect of the TOS becomes negligible, leaving mobility to be determined by the intrinsic properties of graphene itself. This combination of high doping and high mobility gives graphene greater electrical conductivity than that of highly conductive metals like copper and gold.
As the doped graphene got better at conducting electricity, it also became more transparent, the researchers said. This is due to Pauli blocking, a phenomenon where charges manipulated by doping block the material from absorbing light. At the infrared wavelengths used in telecommunications, the graphene became more than 99 percent transparent. Achieving a high rate of transparency and conductivity is crucial to moving information through light-based photonic devices. If too much light is absorbed, information gets lost. The team found a much smaller loss for TOS-doped graphene than for other conductors, suggesting that this method could hold potential for next-generation ultra-efficient photonic devices.
"This is a new way to tailor the properties of graphene on demand," Hone said. "We have just begun to explore the possibilities of this new technique."
One promising direction is to alter graphene's electronic and optical properties by changing the pattern of the TOS, and to imprint electrical circuits directly on the graphene itself. The team is also working to integrate the doped material into novel photonic devices, with potential applications in transparent electronics, telecommunications systems, and quantum computers.