Resolving the Chemically Discrete Structure of Synthetic Borophene Polymorphs

Gavin P. Campbell, Andrew J. Mannix, Jonathan D. Emery, Tien Lin Lee, Nathan P. Guisinger, Mark C. Hersam, Michael J. Bedzyk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) materials exhibit superlative properties dictated by their intralayer atomic structure, which is typically derived from a limited number of thermodynamically stable bulk layered crystals (e.g., graphene from graphite). The growth of entirely synthetic 2D crystals, those with no corresponding bulk allotrope, would circumvent this dependence upon bulk thermodynamics and substantially expand the phase space available for structure-property engineering of 2D materials. However, it remains unclear if synthetic 2D materials can exist as structurally and chemically distinct layers anchored by van der Waals (vdW) forces, as opposed to strongly bound adlayers. Here, we show that atomically thin sheets of boron (i.e., borophene) grown on the Ag(111) surface exhibit a vdW-like structure without a corresponding bulk allotrope. Using X-ray standing wave-excited X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, the positions of boron in multiple chemical states are resolved with sub-angström spatial resolution, revealing that the borophene forms a single planar layer that is 2.4 Å above the unreconstructed Ag surface. Moreover, our results reveal that multiple borophene phases exhibit these characteristics, denoting a unique form of polymorphism consistent with recent predictions. This observation of synthetic borophene as chemically discrete from the growth substrate suggests that it is possible to engineer a much wider variety of 2D materials than those accessible through bulk layered crystal structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2816-2821
Number of pages6
JournalNano letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 9 2018


  • X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
  • X-ray standing wave
  • boron
  • borophene
  • two-dimensional materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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