Research ArticleCONDENSED MATTER PHYSICS

Chemical identification through two-dimensional electron energy-loss spectroscopy

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Science Advances  08 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 28, eabb4713
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb4713

Abstract

We explore a disruptive approach to nanoscale sensing by performing electron energy loss spectroscopy through the use of low-energy ballistic electrons that propagate on a two-dimensional semiconductor. In analogy to free-space electron microscopy, we show that the presence of analyte molecules in the vicinity of the semiconductor produces substantial energy losses in the electrons, which can be resolved by energy-selective electron injection and detection through actively controlled potential gates. The infrared excitation spectra of the molecules are thereby gathered in this electronic device, enabling the identification of chemical species with high sensitivity. Our realistic theoretical calculations demonstrate the superiority of this technique for molecular sensing, capable of performing spectral identification at the zeptomol level within a microscopic all-electrical device.

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