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Interfacial Strength and Surface Damage Characteristics of Atomically Thin h‑BN, MoS2, and Graphene

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journal contribution
posted on 21.02.2018, 00:00 by Bien-Cuong Tran Khac, Frank W. DelRio, Koo-Hyun Chung
Surface damage characteristics of single- and multilayer hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), and graphene films were systematically investigated via atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based progressive-force and constant-force scratch tests and Raman spectroscopy. The film-to-substrate interfacial strengths of these atomically thin films were assessed based on their critical forces (i.e., the normal force where the atomically thin film was delaminated from the underlying substrate), as determined from progressive-force scratch tests. The evolution of surface damage with respect to normal force was further investigated using constant-force tests. The results showed that single-layer h-BN, MoS2, and graphene strongly adhere to the SiO2 substrate, which significantly improves its tribological performance. Moreover, defect formation induced by scratch testing was found to affect the topography and friction force differently prior to failure, which points to distinct surface damage characteristics. Interestingly, the residual strains at scratched areas suggest that the scratch test-induced in-plane compressive strains were dominant over tensile strains, thereby leading to buckling in front of the scratching tip and eventually failure at sufficient strains. These trends represent the general failure mechanisms of atomically thin materials because of a scratch test. As the number of layers increased, the tribological performances of atomically thin h-BN, MoS2, and graphene were found to significantly improve because of an increase in the interfacial strengths and a decrease in the surface damage and friction force. In all, the findings on the distinctive surface damage characteristics and general failure mechanisms are useful for the design of reliable, protective and solid-lubricant coating layers based on these materials for nanoscale devices.