Probing the origin and suppression of vertically oriented nanostructures of 2D WS2 layers

Shashank Balasubramanyam, Matthew Bloodgood, M. van Ommeren, Tahsin Faraz, Vincent Vandalon, W.M.M. (Erwin) Kessels, Marcel A. Verheijen, Ageeth A. Bol (Corresponding author)

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Two-dimensional (2D) layered transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) such as WS 2 are promising materials for nanoelectronic applications. However, growth of the desired horizontal basal-plane oriented 2D TMD layers is often accompanied by the growth of vertical nanostructures that can hinder charge transport and, consequently, hamper device application. In this work, we discuss both the formation and suppression of vertical nanostructures during plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PEALD) of WS 2. Using scanning transmission electron microscopy studies, formation pathways of vertical nanostructures are established for a two-step (AB-type) PEALD process. Grain boundaries are identified as the principal formation centers of vertical nanostructures. Based on the obtained insights, we introduce an approach to suppress the growth of vertical nanostructures, wherein an additional step (C) - a chemically inert Ar plasma or a reactive H 2 plasma - is added to the original two-step (AB-type) PEALD process. This approach reduces the vertical nanostructure density by 80%. It was confirmed that suppression of vertical nanostructures goes hand in hand with grain size enhancement. The vertical nanostructure density reduction consequently lowers film resistivity by an order of magnitude. Insights obtained in this work can contribute toward devising additional pathways, besides plasma treatments, for suppressing the growth of vertical nanostructures and improving the material properties of 2D TMDs that are relevant for nanoelectronic device applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3873-3885
Number of pages13
JournalACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2020


  • 2D WS
  • grain size
  • low-temperature processing
  • plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition
  • suppression of 2D vertical layers
  • vertical growth of 2D layers


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