Spatial non-uniformity in exfoliated WS2 single layers
Monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are atomically thin two-dimensional crystals with attractive optoelectronic properties, which are promising for emerging applications in nanophotonics. Here, we report on the extraordinary spatial non-uniformity of the photoluminescence (PL) and strain properties of exfoliated WS2 monolayers. Specifically, it is shown that the edges of such monolayers exhibit remarkably enhanced PL intensity compared to their respective central area. A comprehensive analysis of the recombination channels involved in the PL process demonstrates a spatial non-uniformity across the monolayer's surface and reflects on the non-uniformity of the intrinsic electron density across the monolayer. Auger electron imaging and spectroscopy studies complemented with PL measurements in different environments indicate that oxygen chemisorption and physisorption are the two fundamental mechanisms responsible for the observed non-uniformity. At the same time Raman spectroscopy analysis shows remarkable strain variations among the different locations of an individual monolayer, however such variations cannot be strictly correlated with the non-uniform PL emission. Our results shed light on the role of the chemical bonding in the competition between exciton complexes in monolayer WS2, providing a method of engineering new nanophotonic functions using WS2 monolayers. It is therefore envisaged that our findings could find diverse applications towards the development of TMD-based optoelectronic devices.