Engineering the fracture resistance of 2H-transition metal dichalcogenides using vacancies: An in-silico investigation based on HRTEM images

H Nguyen and X Zhang and JG Wen and X Zhang and PM Ajayan and HD Espinosa, MATERIALS TODAY, 70, 17-32 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2023.10.002

Vacancy engineering of 2H-transition metal dichalcogenides (2H-TMDs) has recently attracted great attention due to its potential to fine-tune the phonon and opto-electric properties of these materials. From a mechanical perspective, this symmetry-breaking process typically reduces the overall crack resistance of the material and adversely affects its reliability. However, vacancies can trigger the formation of heterogeneous phases that synergistically improve fracture properties. In this study, using MoSe2 as an example, we characterize the types and density of vacancies that can emerge under electron irradiation and quantify their effect on fracture. Molecular dynamic (MD) simulations, employing a re-parameterized Tersoff potential capable of accurately capturing bond dissociation and structural phase changes, reveal that isolated transition metal monovacancies or chalcogenide divacancies tend to arrest the crack tip and hence enhance the monolayer toughness. In contrast, isolated chalcogenide monovacancies do not significantly affect toughness. The investigation further reveals that selenium vacancy lines, formed by high electron dose rates, alter the crack propagating direction and lead to multiple crack kinking. Using atomic displacements and virial stresses together with a continuum mapping, displacement, strain, and stress fields are computed to extract mechanistic information, e.g., conditions for crack kinking and size effects in fracture events. The study also reveals the potential of specific defect patterns, "vacancy engineering," to improve the toughness of 2H-TMDs materials.

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