Recent advances in material science and semiconductor processing have been achieved largely based on in-depth understanding, efficient management and advanced application of point defects in host semiconductors, thus finding the relevant techniques such as doping and defect engineering as a traditional scientific and technological solution. Meanwhile, two- dimensional (2D) layered semiconductors currently draw tremendous attentions due to industrial needs and their rich physics at the nanoscale; as we approach the end of critical device dimensions in silicon-based technology, ultra-thin semiconductors have the potential as next- generation channel materials, and new physics also emerges at such reduced dimensions where confinement of electrons, phonons, and other quasi-particles is significant. It is therefore rewarding and interesting to understand and redefine the impact of lattice defects by investigating their interactions with energy/charge carriers of the host matter. Potentially, the established understanding will provide unprecedented opportunities for realizing new functionalities and enhancing the performance of energy harvesting and optoelectronic devices.
In this thesis, multiple novel 2D layered semiconductors, such as bismuth and transition- metal chalcogenides, are explored. Following an introduction of conventional effects induced by point defects in semiconductors, the related physics of electronically active amphoteric defects is revisited in greater details. This can elucidate the complication of a two-dimensional electron gas coexisting with the topological states on the surface of bismuth chalcogenides, recently suggested as topological insulators. Therefore, native point defects are still one of the keys to understand and exploit topological insulators.
In addition to from a fundamental science point of view, the effects of point defects on the integrated thermal-electrical transport, as well as the entropy-transporting process in thermoelectric materials are thoroughly investigated. Point defects can potentially beat the undesired coupling, often term “thermoelectric Bermuda triangle”, among electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity and thermopower. The maximum thermoelectric performance is demonstrated with an intermediate density of defects when they beneficially and multi-functionally act as electron donors, as well as strongly energy-dependent electron and phonon scatterers. Therefore, this is a good example of how fundamental defect physics can be applied for practical devices toward renewable energy technology.
Another interesting field of layered nanomaterials is on transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), sensational candidates for 2D semiconductor physics and applications. At the reduced dimensionality of 2D where a far stronger correlation between point defects and charge carriers is expected, it is studied how chalcogen vacancies alter optical properties of monolayer TMDs. A new, sub-bandgap broad emission lines as well as increase in the overall photoluminescence intensity at low temperatures are reported as a result of high quantum efficiency of excitons, i.e., bound electron-hole pairs, localized at defect sites. On electrical transport, both n- and p-type materials are needed to form junctions and support bipolar carrier conduction while typically only one type of doping is stable for a particular TMD. For example, MoS2 is natively n-type, thus the lack of p-type doping hampers the development of charge-splitting p-n junctions of MoS2. To address this issue, we demonstrate stable p-type conduction in MoS2 by substitutional Nb doping up to the degenerate level. Proof-of-concept, van der Waals p-n homo-junctions based on vertically stacked MoS2 layers are also fabricated which enable gate-tuneable current rectification. Various electronic devices fabricated are stable in ambient air even without additional treatment such as capping layer protection, thanks to the substitutionality nature of the doping; this is in stark contrast to the existing approach of using molecular doping, which usually suffers from volatility and reactivity with air and/or water molecules.