Two-dimensional few-atom noble gas clusters in a graphene sandwich

Manuel Längle, Kenichiro Mizohata, Clemens Mangler, Alberto Trentino, Kimmo Mustonen, E. Harriet Åhlgren, Jani Kotakoski

The van der Waals atomic solids of noble gases on metals at cryogenic temperatures were the first experimental examples of two-dimensional systems. Recently, such structures have also been created on surfaces under encapsulation by graphene, allowing studies at elevated temperatures through scanning tunnelling microscopy. However, for this technique, the encapsulation layer often obscures the arrangement of the noble gas atoms. Here we create Kr and Xe clusters in between two suspended graphene layers, and uncover their atomic structure through transmission electron microscopy. We show that small crystals (N < 9) arrange on the basis of the simple non-directional van der Waals interaction. Larger crystals show some deviations, possibly enabled by deformations in the encapsulating graphene lattice. We further discuss the dynamics of the clusters within the graphene sandwich, and show that although all the Xe clusters with up to N ≈ 100 remain solid, Kr clusters with already N ≈ 16 turn occasionally fluid under our experimental conditions (under a pressure of ~0.3 GPa). This study opens a way for the so-far unexplored frontier of encapsulated two-dimensional van der Waals solids with exciting possibilities for fundamental condensed-matter physics research and possible applications in quantum information technology.

Physics of Nanostructured Materials
External organisation(s)
University of Helsinki
Nature Materials
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
103015 Condensed matter, 103018 Materials physics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Chemistry(all), Materials Science(all), Condensed Matter Physics, Mechanics of Materials, Mechanical Engineering
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