Scientists studying two different configurations of bilayer graphene have detected electronic and optical interlayer resonances. In these resonant states, electrons bounce back and forth between the two atomic planes in the 2-D interface at the same frequency. By characterizing these states, they found that twisting one of the graphene layers by 30 degrees relative to the other, instead of stacking the layers directly on top of each other, shifts the resonance to a lower energy. From this result they deduced that the distance between the two layers increased significantly in the twisted configuration, compared to the stacked one. When this distance changes, so do the interlayer interactions, influencing how electrons move in the bilayer system. An understanding of this electron motion could inform the design of future quantum technologies for more powerful computing and more secure communication.
“Today’s computer chips are based on our knowledge of how electrons move in semiconductors, specifically silicon,” said first and co-corresponding author Zhongwei Dai, a postdoc in the Interface Science and Catalysis Group at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. “But the physical properties of silicon are reaching a physical limit in terms of how small transistors can be made and how many can fit on a chip. If we can understand how electrons move at the small scale of a few nanometers in the reduced dimensions of 2-D materials, we may be able to unlock another way to utilize electrons for quantum information science.”