Origin of band gaps in graphene on hexagonal boron nitride

Nat Commun. 2015 Feb 19;6:6308. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7308.


Recent progress in preparing well-controlled two-dimensional van der Waals heterojunctions has opened up a new frontier in materials physics. Here we address the intriguing energy gaps that are sometimes observed when a graphene sheet is placed on a hexagonal boron nitride substrate, demonstrating that they are produced by an interesting interplay between structural and electronic properties, including electronic many-body exchange interactions. Our theory is able to explain the observed gap behaviour by accounting first for the structural relaxation of graphene's carbon atoms when placed on a boron nitride substrate, and then for the influence of the substrate on low-energy π-electrons located at relaxed carbon atom sites. The methods we employ can be applied to many other van der Waals heterojunctions.

Publication types

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