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2D van der Waals crystals, a class of materials that exhibit strong in-plane covalent bonds and weak interlayer interactions, have recently become the focus of numerous research studies due to their plethora of unique electrical, optical, and mechanical properties. Curiously, when a hybrid vertical stacking of different sheets of van der Waals crystals is assembled, it gains new properties absent from any of its constituent layers.

Recently, researchers at University of Chicago, Cornell University, and University of Michigan have been exploring a new robotic technique to assemble intricate van der Waals structures so that their hybrid properties may be more efficiently studied. In a newly published paper in Nature Nanotechnology, the team introduced a robotically-automated method for the 4D assembly van der Waals solids, building on techniques for wafer-scale 2D materials synthesis and clean stacking of materials under vacuum introduced in their previous works.

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