Whether an alloy is random or ordered can have profound effects on its properties. The close chemical similarity of W and Mo in the two-dimensional semiconductors MoS2 and WS2 has led to the expectation that WxMo1-xS2 is a random alloy. Here we report that triangular monolayer flakes of WxMo1-xS2 produced by sulfurization of MoO3/WO3 are not only nonrandom, but also anisotropic: W and Mo form atomically thin chains oriented parallel to the edges of the triangle, especially around x ∼ 0.5, as resolved by aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy. First-principles calculations reveal that the binding energies of striped and random alloys are nearly identical but that phase segregation at the growth edge favors one metal over another depending on the local sulfur availability, independent of the composition deeper inside the monolayer. Thus, atomically thin striping is kinetically driven and controlled by fluctuations that couple the local chemical potentials of metals and chalcogenide. Considering the nearly identical electronic properties but very different atomic masses of Mo and W, the resulting striped alloy is electronically isotropic, but vibrationally anisotropic. Phonon anomalies associated with the stripe ordering are predicted, as is an anisotropic thermal conductivity. More generally, fluctuation-driven striping provides a mechanism to produce in-plane subnanometer superlattices within two-dimensional crystals, with broad implications for controlling the electronic, optical, and structural properties of these systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanical Engineering