Editorial Feature

A Guide to the Different Types of 2D Materials

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2D materials are those that are made up entirely of their surface and are often only a single-atom thick. Not only are these new materials emerging at a relatively quick pace but they can be quite distinct. For example, the material can be highly flexible and porous as well as rigid and strong.


Graphene, a single-atom-thick hexagonal- or honeycomb-arranged sheet of carbon atoms, is considered the thinnest material known and stronger than steel. It is also pliable, transparent, and conductive of both heat and electricity. Commercialization efforts are already underway to make industrial-scale applications, including a conductive transparent electrode.


A one atom-thick layer of silicon, silicene has graphene’s electrical properties and could be used in silicon-based circuits to develop miniaturized electronic devices. Patrick Vogt of Berlin's Technical University, Germany, and Paola De Padova from the Istituto di Struttura della Materia in Italy isolated silicene through a process called simple vapor deposition to grow a one atom-thick silicon layer on a silver crystal surface.

​Silica Glass

David Muller and colleagues at the Kavli Institute at Cornell in New York discovered this thinnest preparation of glass ever made through electron microscopy. The silica glass though 2D is an amorphous structure that is a two-silicon-atom-thick and very stable and rigid, like bulk glass.

Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2)

Image Credit: Ben Mills/Wikipedia.com

Silvery black and part of the family of layered metal chalcogenides, a MoS2 crystal, seen through optical microscopy and photoluminescence, consists of two molecular layers with part of one layer broken away. MoS2, being studied by Tony Heinz, PhD of the Departments of Physics and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University, considers MoS2 to be a promising lubricant as it forms into loose layers that readily slide from one another.


Atomically flat boron, a naturally occurring mineral, is metallic and will transmit electrons with no resistance. Rice University’s Chair of Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Chemistry, Boris Yakobson, PhD is studying the material and found it to be a natural low-temperature superconductor that loses resistivity only in very cold conditions - between 10 and 20 Kelvin or about minus 430 degrees Fahrenheit.


Image Credit: PeinTwen/Wikipedia.com

A one-atom thick honeycomb layer of germanene atoms is buckled in nature, as seen through scanning tunneling microscopy. An international team of researchers led by Guy Le Lay at France’s Aix-Marseille University is exploring the material with the belief it could have a role in semiconductors.


Adding fluorine atoms to a single layer of tin makes stanene, a natural insulator that is believed to conduct electricity with 100% efficiency because the electricity moves along the outside edges of the material and not through its middle. Shoucheng Zhang, a physics professor at Stanford University’s Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) is a lead researcher for this material.


Single layers of black phosphorus, the most stable form of the element in open air, are being studied as a 2D electron-poor also known as p-type semiconductor by Peide Ye and others at Purdue University in Lafayette, IN.

Sources and Further Reading

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