Sublimation-based wafer-scale monolayer WS2 formation via self-limited thinning of few-layer WS2

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Atomically-thin monolayer WS2 is a promising channel material for next-generation Moore’s nanoelectronics owing to its high theoretical room temperature electron mobility and immunity to short channel effect. The high photoluminescence (PL) quantum yield of the monolayer WS2 also makes it highly promising for future high-performance optoelectronics. However, the difficulty in strictly growing monolayer WS2, due to its non-self-limiting growth mechanism, may hinder its industrial development because of the uncontrollable growth kinetics in attaining the high uniformity in thickness and property on the wafer-scale. In this study, we report a scalable process to achieve a 4 inch wafer-scale fully-covered strictly monolayer WS2 by applying the in situ self-limited thinning of multilayer WS2 formed by sulfurization of WOx films. Through a pulsed supply of sulfur precursor vapor under a continuous H2 flow, the self-limited thinning process can effectively trim down the overgrown multilayer WS2 to the monolayer limit without damaging the remaining bottom WS2 monolayer. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations reveal that the self-limited thinning arises from the thermodynamic instability of the WS2 top layers as opposed to a stable bottom monolayer WS2 on sapphire above a vacuum sublimation temperature of WS2. The self-limited thinning approach overcomes the intrinsic limitation of conventional vapor-based growth methods in preventing the 2nd layer WS2 domain nucleation/growth. It also offers additional advantages, such as scalability, simplicity, and possibility for batch processing, thus opening up a new avenue to develop a manufacturing-viable growth technology for the preparation of a strictly-monolayer WS2 on the wafer-scale.

Graphical abstract: Sublimation-based wafer-scale monolayer WS2 formation via self-limited thinning of few-layer WS2

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