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New adhesive tape picks up and sticks 2D materials as easily as child’s play


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The newly designed UV tape is capable of transferring 2D materials, including graphene and transition metal chalcogenides, to a variety of different substrates, including silicon, ceramics, glass and plastic. Credit: Ago Lab, Kyushu University

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The newly designed UV tape is capable of transferring 2D materials, including graphene and transition metal chalcogenides, to a variety of different substrates, including silicon, ceramics, glass and plastic. Credit: Ago Lab, Kyushu University

Materials just a few atoms thick, known as two-dimensional (2D) materials, are set to revolutionize the technology of the future, including the electronics industry. However, the commercialization of devices containing 2D materials has faced challenges due to the difficulty in transferring these extremely thin materials from where they are manufactured to the device.

Now, a research team at Kyushu University, in collaboration with the Japanese company Nitto Denko, has developed a tape that can be used to stick 2D materials to many different surfaces, in a simple and easy-to-use way. The findings were published in Nature Electronics on February 9, 2024.

“2D material transfer is often a very technical and complex process; the material can easily break down or become contaminated, significantly degrading its unique properties,” says lead author Professor Hiroki Ago of the Center for Global Innovation at the University of Kyushu. “Our tape offers a quick and easy alternative and reduces damage.”

The researchers started by focusing on graphene. Made from a thin sheet of carbon atoms, graphene is strong, flexible and light, with high thermal and electrical conductivity. Dubbed a “wonder material” after its discovery, it has potential applications in biosensing, cancer drug delivery, aeronautics and electronic devices.


So far, researchers from Kyushu University and Nitto Denko have managed to transfer graphene wafers up to 10 cm in diameter using UV tape. With smaller pieces of UV tape, sticking and peeling can be done by hand. However, machines are useful when mass production is expanded. Credit: Nakatani et al. Nature Electronics

“One of the main methods to produce graphene is through chemical vapor deposition, where the graphene is grown on a copper film. But to work properly, the graphene must be separated from the copper and transferred to an insulating substrate, such as silicon,” explains Professor Ago.

“To do this, a protective polymer is placed on top of the graphene and then the copper is removed using an etching solution, such as an acid. Once bonded to the new substrate, the protective polymer layer is dissolved with a solvent. This process is “Expensive, time-consuming, and can cause defects on the graphene surface or leave traces of the polymer.”

Professor Ago and his colleagues therefore set out to provide an alternative way to transfer graphene. They used AI to develop a specialized polymer tape, called “UV tape,” that changes its attraction to graphene when irradiated with ultraviolet light.


Researchers from Kyushu University and Nitto Denko have developed a tape that changes its “adhesion” to 2D materials due to ultraviolet light. Credit: Ago Lab, Kyushu University

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Researchers from Kyushu University and Nitto Denko have developed a tape that changes its “adhesion” to 2D materials due to ultraviolet light. Credit: Ago Lab, Kyushu University

Before exposure to UV light, the tape has a strong adhesion to the graphene, allowing it to “stick.” But after exposure to UV rays, the bonds of the atoms change, which decreases the level of adhesion to graphene by about 10%. UV tape also becomes slightly stiffer and easier to peel off. Together, these changes allow the tape to peel away from the device substrate, leaving the graphene behind.

The researchers also developed tapes that can transfer two other 2D materials: white graphene (hBN), an insulator that can act as a protective layer when stacking 2D materials, and transition metal chalcogenides (TMD), a promising material for the next generation of semiconductors. .

Importantly, when the researchers looked closely at the surface of the 2D materials after transfer, they saw a smoother surface with fewer defects than when they were transferred using the current conventional technique. By testing the properties of the materials, they also found that they were more efficient.

UV tape transfer also offers many other advantages over current transfer techniques. Because UV tape is flexible and the transfer process does not require the use of solvents to dissolve plastic, flexible plastics can be used as the device substrate, expanding potential applications.

“For example, we have created a plastic device that uses graphene as a terahertz sensor. Like X-rays, terahertz radiation can pass through objects that light cannot pass through, but it does not harm the body,” says Professor Ago “It’s very promising for medical imaging or airport security.”


Researchers at Kyushu University showed that using UV tape to transfer graphene instead of polymer better maintained the integrity of the material and reduced defects. Credit: Ago Lab, Kyushu University

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Researchers at Kyushu University showed that using UV tape to transfer graphene instead of polymer better maintained the integrity of the material and reduced defects. Credit: Ago Lab, Kyushu University

What’s more, UV tape can be cut to size so that only the exact amount of 2D material needed is transferred, minimizing waste and reducing costs. 2D layers of different materials can also be easily placed on top of each other in different orientations, allowing researchers to explore new emerging properties of the stacked materials.

For their next steps, the researchers aim to scale up the size of the UV tape to the scale needed by manufacturers. Currently, the largest graphene wafer that can be transferred is 10 cm in diameter. Professor Ago and his colleagues are also trying to solve the problem of wrinkles and bubbles that form in the tape and cause small defects.

The research team also hopes to improve stability, so that the 2D materials can be attached to UV tapes for a longer period of time and distributed to end users, such as other scientists.

“End users can transfer the material to the desired substrate by applying and removing the UV tape like a children’s sticker, without training,” says Professor Ago. “Such a simple method could fundamentally change the style of research and speed up the commercial development of 2D materials”.

More information:
Two-dimensional materials ready to transfer using tunable strength adhesive tapes, Nature Electronics (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41928-024-01121-3

Magazine information:
Nature Electronics




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