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Commensurate-incommensurate transition in graphene on hexagonal boron nitride

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  • C. R. Woods
  • L. Britnell
  • A. Eckmann
  • R. S. Ma
  • J. C. Lu
  • H. M. Guo
  • X. Lin
  • G. L. Yu
  • Y. Cao
  • R. V. Gorbachev
  • A. V. Kretinin
  • J. Park
  • M. I. Katsnelson
  • Yu. N. Gornostyrev
  • K. Watanabe
  • T. Taniguchi
  • C. Casiraghi
  • H-J. Gao
  • A. K. Geim
  • K. S. Novoselov
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Nature Physics
Issue number6
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)451-456
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


When a crystal is subjected to a periodic potential, under certain circumstances it can adjust itself to follow the periodicity of the potential, resulting in a commensurate state. Of particular interest are topological defects between the two commensurate phases, such as solitons and domain walls. Here we report a commensurate-incommensurate transition for graphene on top of hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). Depending on the rotation angle between the lattices of the two crystals, graphene can either stretch to adapt to a slightly different hBN periodicity (for small angles, resulting in a commensurate state) or exhibit little adjustment (the incommensurate state). In the commensurate state, areas with matching lattice constants are separated by domain walls that accumulate the generated strain. Such soliton-like objects are not only of significant fundamental interest, but their presence could also explain recent experiments where electronic and optical properties of graphene-hBN heterostructures were observed to be considerably altered.