A group of researchers at the Boise State University has recently released an open-source design of a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) system for developing two-dimensional materials, an advance which could overcome challenges in 2D materials research and accelerate their discovery, and enable translation from benchtop to commercial market.
The pioneering work on 2D materials (one to a few atoms thick) involved isolating and determining the physical properties of graphene – a two dimensional of carbon arranged in a hexagonal crystal structure – which facilitated the field of 2D materials research.
Using an adhesive tapes-enabled micromechanical cleavage approach, 2D materials can be derived from the bulk van der Waals crystal. However, the researchers realized that an advanced manufacturing methods would be required to unlock the full potential of 2D materials, which are also compatible with the infrastructure of semiconductor industry.
Although chemical vapor deposition appears to be a promising approach for larger scale synthesis of 2D materials, the automated commercial system may not be affordable for certain research groups and startups.
Developing open-source hardware and software has been a recent trend in the scientific community which not helps reduce equipment cost but also expedite scientific discovery. The Boise State researchers have now added a variable pressure chemical vapor deposition system to the inventory of open-source scientific equipment.
Results of the new system have been detailed in a research paper published in the journal PLoS One, including the list of parts, software drivers, assembly instructions, and automated control programs of synthesis procedures.
The design and qualification of the custom-built furnace were accomplished by the lead authors of the paper, Dale Brown, former graduate student of Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering and Lizandra Godwin, clinical assistant faculty member.
Using the furnace, the research team has been able to demonstrate the growth of graphene, graphene foam and its heterostructures – tungsten disulfide. They said that the main objective of publishing their design is to prevent the burden of designing and creating CVD systems for early-stage graduate students. Such an improvement could also reduce the barrier to entry for future 2D materials research, they added.