CONSPECTUS: In the wake of the discovery of the remarkable electronic and physical properties of graphene, a vibrant research area on two-dimensional (2D) layered materials has emerged during the past decade. Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) represent an alternative group of 2D layered materials that differ from the semimetallic character of graphene. They exhibit diverse properties that depend on their composition and can be semiconductors (e.g., MoS2, WS2), semimetals (e.g., WTe2, TiSe2), true metals (e.g., NbS2, VSe2), and superconductors (e.g., NbSe2, TaS2). The properties of TMDs can also be tailored according to the crystalline structure and the number and stacking sequence of layers in their crystals and thin films. For example, 2H-MoS2 is semiconducting, whereas 1T-MoS2 is metallic. Bulk 2H-MoS2 possesses an indirect band gap, but when 2H-MoS2 is exfoliated into monolayers, it exhibits direct electronic and optical band gaps, which leads to enhanced photoluminescence. Therefore, it is important to learn to control the growth of 2D TMD structures in order to exploit their properties in energy conversion and storage, catalysis, sensing, memory devices, and other applications. In this Account, we first introduce the history and structural basics of TMDs. We then briefly introduce the Raman fingerprints of TMDs of different layer numbers. Then, we summarize our progress on the controlled synthesis of 2D layered materials using wet chemical approaches, chemical exfoliation, and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). It is now possible to control the number of layers when synthesizing these materials, and novel van der Waals heterostructures (e.g., MoS2/graphene, WSe2/graphene, hBN/graphene) have recently been successfully assembled. Finally, the unique optical, electrical, photovoltaic, and catalytic properties of few-layered TMDs are summarized and discussed. In particular, their enhanced photoluminescence (PL), photosensing, photovoltaic conversion, and hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) catalysis are discussed in detail. Finally, challenges along each direction are described. For instance, how to grow perfect single crystalline monolayer TMDs without the presence of grain boundaries and dislocations is still an open question. Moreover, the morphology and crystal structure control of few-layered TMDs still requires further research. For wet chemical approaches and chemical exfoliation methods, it is still a significant challenge to control the lateral growth of TMDs without expansion in the c-axis direction. In fact, there is plenty of room in the 2D world beyond graphene. We envisage that with increasing progress in the controlled synthesis of these systems the unusual properties of mono- and few-layered TMDs and TMD heterostructures will be unveiled. (Figure Presented).
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