Probing excitonic dark states in single-layer tungsten disulphide

Nature. 2014 Sep 11;513(7517):214-8. doi: 10.1038/nature13734. Epub 2014 Aug 27.


Transition metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) monolayers have recently emerged as an important class of two-dimensional semiconductors with potential for electronic and optoelectronic devices. Unlike semi-metallic graphene, layered TMDCs have a sizeable bandgap. More interestingly, when thinned down to a monolayer, TMDCs transform from indirect-bandgap to direct-bandgap semiconductors, exhibiting a number of intriguing optical phenomena such as valley-selective circular dichroism, doping-dependent charged excitons and strong photocurrent responses. However, the fundamental mechanism underlying such a strong light-matter interaction is still under intensive investigation. First-principles calculations have predicted a quasiparticle bandgap much larger than the measured optical gap, and an optical response dominated by excitonic effects. In particular, a recent study based on a GW plus Bethe-Salpeter equation (GW-BSE) approach, which employed many-body Green's-function methodology to address electron-electron and electron-hole interactions, theoretically predicted a diversity of strongly bound excitons. Here we report experimental evidence of a series of excitonic dark states in single-layer WS2 using two-photon excitation spectroscopy. In combination with GW-BSE theory, we prove that the excitons are of Wannier type, meaning that each exciton wavefunction extends over multiple unit cells, but with extraordinarily large binding energy (∼0.7 electronvolts), leading to a quasiparticle bandgap of 2.7 electronvolts. These strongly bound exciton states are observed to be stable even at room temperature. We reveal an exciton series that deviates substantially from hydrogen models, with a novel energy dependence on the orbital angular momentum. These excitonic energy levels are experimentally found to be robust against environmental perturbations. The discovery of excitonic dark states and exceptionally large binding energy not only sheds light on the importance of many-electron effects in this two-dimensional gapped system, but also holds potential for the device application of TMDC monolayers and their heterostructures in computing, communication and bio-sensing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.