Research ArticlePHYSICS

Gas flow through atomic-scale apertures

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Science Advances  18 Dec 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 51, eabc7927
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc7927


Gas flows are often analyzed with the theoretical descriptions formulated over a century ago and constantly challenged by the emerging architectures of narrow channels, slits, and apertures. Here, we report atomic-scale defects in two-dimensional (2D) materials as apertures for gas flows at the ultimate quasi-0D atomic limit. We establish that pristine monolayer tungsten disulfide (WS2) membranes act as atomically thin barriers to gas transport. Atomic vacancies from missing tungsten (W) sites are made in freestanding (WS2) monolayers by focused ion beam irradiation and characterized using aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy. WS2 monolayers with atomic apertures are mechanically sturdy and showed fast helium flow. We propose a simple yet robust method for confirming the formation of atomic apertures over large areas using gas flows, an essential step for pursuing their prospective applications in various domains including molecular separation, single quantum emitters, sensing and monitoring of gases at ultralow concentrations.

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