Commensurate-incommensurate transition in graphene on hexagonal boron nitride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Colin Woods
  • Liam Britnell
  • Axel Eckmann
  • R. S. Ma
  • J. C. Lu
  • H. M. Guo
  • X. Lin
  • Geliang Yu
  • Y. Cao
  • Jaesung Park
  • Leonid Ponomarenko
  • M. I. Katsnelson
  • Yu N. Gornostyrev
  • K. Watanabe
  • T. Taniguchi
  • H.-J. Gao
  • Andre Geim
  • Konstantin Novoselov


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. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-456
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 2014