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Concept: Boron nitride


The insulator characteristic of hexagonal boron nitride limits its applications in microelectronics. In this paper, the fluorinated hexagonal boron nitride nanosheets were prepared by doping fluorine into the boron nitride nanosheets exfoliated from the bulk boron nitride in isopropanol via a facile chemical solution method with fluoboric acid; interestingly, these boron nitride nanosheets demonstrate a typical semiconductor characteristic which were studied on a new scanning tunneling microscope-transmission electron microscope holder. Since this property changes from an insulator to a semiconductor of the boron nitride, these nanosheets will be able to extend their applications in designing and fabricating electronic nanodevices.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Hydrogen, Chemistry, Semiconductor, Electrical conductivity, Boron, Boron nitride


We study a superlattice of silicene and hexagonal boron nitride by first principles calculations and demonstrate that the interaction between the layers of the superlattice is very small. As a consequence, quasi free-standing silicene is realized in this superlattice. In particular, the Dirac cone of silicene is preserved. Due to the wide band gap of hexagonal boron nitride, the superlattice realizes the characteristic physical phenomena of free-standing silicene. In particular, we address by model calculations the combined effect of the intrinsic spin-orbit coupling and an external electric field, which induces a transition from a semimetal to a topological insulator and further to a band insulator.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Mathematics, Fundamental physics concepts, Condensed matter physics, Band gap, Philosophical terminology, Boron nitride, Aluminium nitride


To pattern electrical metal contacts, electron beam lithography or photolithography are commonly utilized, and these processes require polymer resists with solvents. During the patterning process the graphene surface is exposed to chemicals, and the residue on the graphene surface was unable to be completely removed by any method, causing the graphene layer to be contaminated. A lithography free method can overcome these residue problems. In this study, we use a micro-grid as a shadow mask to fabricate a graphene based field-effect-transistor (FET). Electrical measurements of the graphene based FET samples are carried out in air and vacuum. It is found that the Dirac peaks of the graphene devices on SiO2 or on hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) shift from a positive gate voltage region to a negative region as air pressure decreases. In particular, the Dirac peaks shift very rapidly when the pressure decreases from ~2 × 10(-3) Torr to ~5 × 10(-5) Torr within 5 minutes. These Dirac peak shifts are known as adsorption and desorption of environmental gases, but the shift amounts are considerably different depending on the fabrication process. The high gas sensitivity of the device fabricated by shadow mask is attributed to adsorption on the clean graphene surface.

Concepts: Electron, Pressure, Gas, Pascal, Photolithography, Vacuum, Electron beam lithography, Boron nitride


The electrostatic confinement of massless charge carriers is hampered by Klein tunneling. Circumventing this problem in graphene mainly relies on carving out nanostructures or applying electric displacement fields to open a band gap in bilayer graphene. So far, these approaches suffer from edge disorder or insufficiently controlled localization of electrons. Here we realize an alternative strategy in monolayer graphene, by combining a homogeneous magnetic field and electrostatic confinement. Using the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope, we induce a confining potential in the Landau gaps of bulk graphene without the need for physical edges. Gating the localized states towards the Fermi energy leads to regular charging sequences with more than 40 Coulomb peaks exhibiting typical addition energies of 7-20meV. Orbital splittings of 4-10meV and a valley splitting of about 3meV for the first orbital state can be deduced. These experimental observations are quantitatively reproduced by tight binding calculations, which include the interactions of the graphene with the aligned hexagonal boron nitride substrate. The demonstrated confinement approach appears suitable to create quantum dots with well-defined wave function properties beyond the reach of traditional techniques.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Energy, Quantum mechanics, Electric field, Condensed matter physics, Band gap, Boron nitride


Glasses and single crystals have traditionally been used as optical windows. Recently, there has been a high demand for harder and tougher optical windows that are able to endure severe conditions. Transparent polycrystalline ceramics can fulfill this demand because of their superior mechanical properties. It is known that polycrystalline ceramics with a spinel structure in compositions of MgAl2O4 and aluminum oxynitride (γ-AlON) show high optical transparency. Here we report the synthesis of the hardest transparent spinel ceramic, i.e. polycrystalline cubic silicon nitride (c-Si3N4). This material shows an intrinsic optical transparency over a wide range of wavelengths below its band-gap energy (258 nm) and is categorized as one of the third hardest materials next to diamond and cubic boron nitride (cBN). Since the high temperature metastability of c-Si3N4 in air is superior to those of diamond and cBN, the transparent c-Si3N4 ceramic can potentially be used as a window under extremely severe conditions.

Concepts: Optical fiber, Silicon, Diamond, Silicon carbide, Ceramic materials, Boron nitride, Transparent materials, Silicon nitride


Van der Waals heterostructures are comprised of stacked atomically thin two-dimensional crystals and serve as novel materials providing unprecedented properties. However, the random natures in positions and shapes of exfoliated two-dimensional crystals have required the repetitive manual tasks of optical microscopy-based searching and mechanical transferring, thereby severely limiting the complexity of heterostructures. To solve the problem, here we develop a robotic system that searches exfoliated two-dimensional crystals and assembles them into superlattices inside the glovebox. The system can autonomously detect 400 monolayer graphene flakes per hour with a small error rate (<7%) and stack four cycles of the designated two-dimensional crystals per hour with few minutes of human intervention for each stack cycle. The system enabled fabrication of the superlattice consisting of 29 alternating layers of the graphene and the hexagonal boron nitride. This capacity provides a scalable approach for prototyping a variety of van der Waals superlattices.

Concepts: Van der Waals force, Graphite, Assembly language, Diamond, Problem solving, Searching, Cycle, Boron nitride


We report the fluorination of electrically insulating hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) and the subsequent modification of its electronic band structure to a wide bandgap semiconductor via introduction of defect levels. The electrophilic nature of fluorine causes changes in the charge distribution around neighboring nitrogen atoms in h-BN, leading to room temperature weak ferromagnetism. The observations are further supported by theoretical calculations considering various possible configurations of fluorinated h-BN structure and their energy states. This unconventional magnetic semiconductor material could spur studies of stable two-dimensional magnetic semiconductors. Although the high thermal and chemical stability of h-BN have found a variety of uses, this chemical functionalization approach expands its functionality to electronic and magnetic devices.

Concepts: Electron, Fundamental physics concepts, Semiconductor, Electronic band structure, Band gap, Semiconductors, Valence band, Boron nitride


Cubic boron nitride (cBN) is a well known superhard material that has a wide range of industrial applications. Nanostructuring of cBN is an effective way to improve its hardness by virtue of the Hall-Petch effect–the tendency for hardness to increase with decreasing grain size. Polycrystalline cBN materials are often synthesized by using the martensitic transformation of a graphite-like BN precursor, in which high pressures and temperatures lead to puckering of the BN layers. Such approaches have led to synthetic polycrystalline cBN having grain sizes as small as ∼14 nm (refs 1, 2, 4, 5). Here we report the formation of cBN with a nanostructure dominated by fine twin domains of average thickness ∼3.8 nm. This nanotwinned cBN was synthesized from specially prepared BN precursor nanoparticles possessing onion-like nested structures with intrinsically puckered BN layers and numerous stacking faults. The resulting nanotwinned cBN bulk samples are optically transparent with a striking combination of physical properties: an extremely high Vickers hardness (exceeding 100 GPa, the optimal hardness of synthetic diamond), a high oxidization temperature (∼1,294 °C) and a large fracture toughness (>12 MPa m(½), well beyond the toughness of commercial cemented tungsten carbide, ∼10 MPa m(½)). We show that hardening of cBN is continuous with decreasing twin thickness down to the smallest sizes investigated, contrasting with the expected reverse Hall-Petch effect below a critical grain size or the twin thickness of ∼10-15 nm found in metals and alloys.

Concepts: Diamond, Young's modulus, Boron, Boron nitride, Hardness, Superhard materials, Borazon, Heterodiamond


The design of stacks of layered materials in which adjacent layers interact by van der Waals forces has enabled the combination of various two-dimensional crystals with different electrical, optical and mechanical properties as well as the emergence of novel physical phenomena and device functionality. Here, we report photoinduced doping in van der Waals heterostructures consisting of graphene and boron nitride layers. It enables flexible and repeatable writing and erasing of charge doping in graphene with visible light. We demonstrate that this photoinduced doping maintains the high carrier mobility of the graphene/boron nitride heterostructure, thus resembling the modulation doping technique used in semiconductor heterojunctions, and can be used to generate spatially varying doping profiles such as p-n junctions. We show that this photoinduced doping arises from microscopically coupled optical and electrical responses of graphene/boron nitride heterostructures, including optical excitation of defect transitions in boron nitride, electrical transport in graphene, and charge transfer between boron nitride and graphene.

Concepts: Physics, Light, Van der Waals force, Semiconductor, Boron, Boron nitride, P-n junction, Heterojunction


Graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) have similar crystal structures with a lattice constant difference of only 2%. However, graphene is a zero-bandgap semiconductor with remarkably high carrier mobility at room temperature, whereas an atomically thin layer of h-BN is a dielectric with a wide bandgap of ∼5.9 eV. Accordingly, if precise two-dimensional domains of graphene and h-BN can be seamlessly stitched together, hybrid atomic layers with interesting electronic applications could be created. Here, we show that planar graphene/h-BN heterostructures can be formed by growing graphene in lithographically patterned h-BN atomic layers. Our approach can create periodic arrangements of domains with size ranging from tens of nanometres to millimetres. The resulting graphene/h-BN atomic layers can be peeled off the growth substrate and transferred to various platforms including flexible substrates. We also show that the technique can be used to fabricate two-dimensional devices, such as a split closed-loop resonator that works as a bandpass filter.

Concepts: Crystal, Semiconductor, Solid, Crystal system, Filter, Band-pass filter, Boron nitride, Aluminium nitride