Van der Waals Heterostructures: Fabrication, Mechanical and Electronic Properties

  • Ekaterina Khestanova

Student thesis: Phd


The fast progress in the exploration of 2D materials such as graphene became possible due to development of fabrication techniques that allowed these materials to be protected from e.g. undesirable doping and gave rise to new functionalities realized within van der Waals heterostructures. Attracted by van der Waals interaction the constituent layers of such heterostructures preserve their exceptional electronic quality and for example in graphene allow for high electron mobility to be achieved. However, the studies of atomically thin layers such as NbSe2 that exhibit metallic behavior have been impeded by their reactivity and hence oxidation during exposure to ambient or oxidizing agents such as solvents. In this thesis, the existing heterostructure assembly technique was improved by the introduction of exfoliation and re-stacking by a fully motorized system placed in an inert atmosphere. This approach allowed us to overcome the problem of environmental degradation and create Hall bars and planar tunnel junctions from atomically thin superconducting NbSe2. Furthermore, this versatile approach allowed us to study the thickness dependence of the normal and superconducting state transport properties of NbSe2, uncovering the reduction of the superconducting energy gap and transition temperature in the thinnest samples. On the other hand, 2D materials being just 1-3 atoms thick represent an ultimate example of a membrane – thin but laterally extended object. Consisting of such atomically thin membranes the van der Waals heterostructures can be used for purposes other than the studies of electronic transport. In this work, ubiquitous bubbles occurring during van der Waals heterostructure assembly are employed as a tool to explore 2D materials’ mechanical properties and mutual adhesion. This allowed us to measure Young’s modulus of graphene and other 2D materials under 1-2% strain and deduce the internal pressure that can reach up to 1 GPa in sub-nanometer size bubbles.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIrina Grigorieva (Supervisor) & Roman Gorbachev (Supervisor)


  • nanoindentation
  • van der Waals pressure
  • superconducting gap of NbSe2
  • van der Waals heterostructures
  • nanofabrication
  • 2D materials
  • 2D superconductivity

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