National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers have created a whole new library of atomically thin two-dimensional (2-D) materials, christened "ic-2-D," to denote a class of materials based on self-intercalation of native atoms into the gap between the layers of crystals.

Atomically thin two-dimensional (2-D) materials offer an excellent platform to explore a wide range of intriguing properties in confined 2-D systems. However, compositional tuning of transition dichalcogenides to make new materials other than the standard binary or ternary compounds is challenging. In the past, theoreticians have tried to predict new properties based on combining atoms into a crystal structure where metal and chalcogen atoms sit in covalently bonded sites within the basic building block (unit cell). However, their theories did not address the situation when the same metal atom sits in between two unit cells (filling the van der Waals gap).

Now, research teams led by Prof Kian Ping LOH from the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, NUS and collaborator Prof Stephen J. PENNYCOOK from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, NUS, have synthesised and characterised for the first time, an atlas of wafer-scale atomically thin ic-2-D materials based on inserting the same metal atoms between the van der Waals gap of transition metal dichalcogenides.

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