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Nanoscale. 2017 Oct 5;9(38):14540-14547. doi: 10.1039/c7nr04134a.

Vertical dielectric screening of few-layer van der Waals semiconductors.

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Department of Physics, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63136, USA.


Vertical dielectric screening is a fundamental parameter of few-layer van der Waals two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors. However, unlike the widely-accepted wisdom claiming that the vertical dielectric screening is sensitive to the thickness, our first-principles calculation based on the linear response theory (within the weak field limit) reveals that this screening is independent of the thickness and, in fact, it is the same as the corresponding bulk value. This conclusion is verified in a wide range of 2D paraelectric semiconductors, covering narrow-gap ones and wide-gap ones with different crystal symmetries, providing an efficient and reliable way to calculate and predict static dielectric screening of reduced-dimensional materials. Employing this conclusion, we satisfactorily explain the tunable band gap in gated 2D semiconductors. We further propose to engineer the vertical dielectric screening by changing the interlayer distance via vertical pressure or hybrid structures. Our predicted vertical dielectric screening can substantially simplify the understanding of a wide range of measurements and it is crucial for designing 2D functional devices.


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