Disentangling Oxygen and Water Vapor Effects on Optoelectronic Properties of Monolayer Tungsten Disulfide

Hanyu Zhang, Jeremy Dunklin, Obadiah Reid, Seok Yun, Sanjini Nanayakkara, Young Lee, Jeffrey Blackburn, Elisa Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus Citations


By understanding how the environmental composition impacts the optoelectronic properties of transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers, we demonstrate that simple photoluminescence (PL) measurements of tungsten disulfide (WS2) monolayers can differentiate relative humidity environments. In this paper, we examine the PL and photoconductivity of chemical vapor deposition grown WS2 monolayers under three carefully controlled environments: inert gas (N2), dry air (O2 in N2), and humid nitrogen (H2O vapor in N2). The WS2 PL is measured as a function of 532 nm laser power and exposure time and can be decomposed into the exciton, trion, and lower energy state(s) contributions. Under continuous illumination in either O2 or H2O vapor environment, we find dramatic (and reversible) increases in PL intensity relative to the PL in an inert environment. The PL bathochromically shifts in an O2 environment and is dominated by increased trion emission and diminished exciton emission. In contrast, the WS2 PL increase in a H2O environment results from an overall increase in emission from all spectral components where the exciton contribution dominates. The drastic increases in PL are anticorrelated with corresponding decreases in photoconductivity, as measured by time-resolved microwave conductivity. The results suggest that both O2 and H2O react photochemically with the WS2 monolayer surface, modifying the optoelectronic properties, but do so via distinct pathways. Thus, we use these optoelectronic differences to differentiate the amount of humidity in the air, which we show with 0%, 40%, and 80% relative humidity environments. This deeper understanding of how ambient conditions impact WS2 monolayers enables novel humidity sensors as well as a better understanding of the correlation between TMDC surface chemistry, light emission, and photoconductivity. Moreover, these WS2 measurements highlight the importance of considering the impact of the local environment on reported results.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8344-8354
Number of pages11
Issue number15
StatePublished - 21 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-73530


  • defect states
  • environmental conditions
  • monolayer transition-metal dichalcogenides
  • photoconductivity
  • photoluminescence
  • solar-photochemistry


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