Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs) – A Promising Class of 2D Materials for Advanced Technologies

Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are a class of two-dimensional (2D) materials with unique electronic and optical properties. Composed of transition metal atoms (such as tungsten, molybdenum, and selenium) and chalcogenide atoms (like sulfur or selenium), they have attracted significant attention in recent years for their potential applications in electronics, optoelectronics, energy conversion and storage, and more. The single-layer nature of TMDs, tunable bandgap, and large intrinsic carrier mobility make them ideal for use in various advanced technologies.

Structure and Properties of TMDs

TMDs are part of a large family of layered semiconductor materials, represented by the formula MX2, where M is a transition metal atom (Mo, W, etc.) and X is a chalcogen atom (S, Se, or Te). These materials consist of one layer of M atoms sandwiched between two layers of X atoms.
Many TMDs, like MoS2, WSe2, WS2, and MoTe2, exhibit tunable bandgaps that transition from indirect to direct when transitioning from bulk crystals to 2D nanosheets. This allows for modification of the bandgaps by varying the number of layers. As the atomic layers decrease, the bandgap widens due to the quantum confinement effect, leading to a crossover from an indirect gap in bulk materials to a direct gap at the single-layer limit.

Van der Waals Heterostructures and Applications

The van der Waals interactions between neighboring layers of TMDs enable more flexible integration of different materials without lattice matching limitations, creating vast possibilities for controlling various properties at the atomic scale. These structures are called van der Waals heterostructures.
Due to their extraordinary optical and electrical properties, 2D TMDs have emerged as a promising class of atomically thin semiconductors for next-generation electronic and optoelectronic devices. For example, their optical properties could make computers run a million times faster and store information with a million times more energy efficiency.
Two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides
Two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides (2D-TMDs). (a) The table shows common TMDs and their band gap. (b) A schematic illustration of the layered structure of MoS2. (c) Energy dispersion in bulk, quadrilayer (4L), bilayer (2L) and monolayer (1L) MoS2 from left to right. The horizontal dashed line represents the energy of a band maximum at the K point. The red and blue lines represent the conduction and valence band edges, respectively. The lowest energy transition increases with the decreasing layer and evolve from indirect to direct (vertical) transitions. (d) The relative valence and conduction band edge of some common TMDs (monolayer).(© The Royal Society of Chemistry) (click on image to enlarge)

Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices Based on 2D TMDs

Early research in 2D-TMDs has focused on their potential as a new generation of atomically thin semiconductors for functional electronics and optoelectronics. In 2013, researchers demonstrated the first n-type field-effect-transistor (FET) made of a monolayer of tungsten diselenide (WSe2), showcasing the material's potential for future low-power and high-performance integrated circuits.
With intrinsic bandgaps typically in the 1-2 eV range, 2D-TMDs overcome graphene's key shortcomings for electronic applications, making them ideal for use in transistors. Additionally, TMDs have excellent absorption properties for circularly polarized light, making them suitable for use in detectors.

Synthesis of Atomically Thin 2D-TMDs

Initial TMD research and device demonstrations often relied on exfoliated flakes, which limited the flake size to around 10 µm or less. This led to the fabrication of 2D-TMD heterostructure devices through labor-intensive exfoliation and repeated physical transfer processes, an approach not scalable for practical technologies.
To fully explore TMD potential, researchers have developed two distinct synthetic strategies: top-down approaches, including mechanical, chemical, and solvent exfoliation; and bottom-up strategies, which involve chemical synthesis of atomically thin nanosheets in solution phase or through chemical vapor deposition processes.
Growth of 2D-TMD heterostructures
Growth of 2D-TMD heterostructures. (a and b) A schematic illustration of lateral epitaxial growth of WS2–WSe2 heterostructures. (c) A schematic illustration of successive lateral epitaxial growth of superlattice structure in the lateral dimension. (d) A schematic illustration of van der Waals superlattices through the successive layer-by-layer growth approach. (© The Royal Society of Chemistry) (click on image to enlarge)


Although the field of TMD research is still in its early stages, the versatility and unique properties of these materials hold great promise for the future of advanced technologies. The availability of a wide range of 2D-TMDs with variable electronic band structures enables the creation of diverse heterojunctions and superlattices with designed and optimized band alignment. By precisely tuning the number of atomic layers and electronic functions, researchers can create a powerful material platform for novel, high-performance electronic and optoelectronic devices.
As research progresses and scalable synthesis methods are refined, the potential applications for TMDs will continue to expand. These developments could lead to significant advances in fields such as energy storage, solar cells, sensors, and wearable electronics. The unique properties and potential applications of transition metal dichalcogenides make them an exciting and promising area of research in material science and nanotechnology.