Van der Waals isotope heterostructures for engineering phonon polariton dispersions

M. Chen, Y. Zhong, E. Harris, J. Li, Z. Zheng, H. Chen, J.-S. Wu, P. Jarillo-Herrero, Q. Ma, J. H. Edgar, X. Lin and S. Dai

Nature Communications 14, 4782 (2023)
Element isotopes are characterized by distinct atomic masses and nuclear spins, which can significantly influence material properties. Notably, however, isotopes in natural materials are homogenously distributed in space. Here, we propose a method to configure material properties by repositioning isotopes in engineered van der Waals (vdW) isotopic heterostructures. We showcase the properties of hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) isotopic heterostructures in engineering confined photon-lattice waves—hyperbolic phonon polaritons. By varying the composition, stacking order, and thicknesses of h10BN and h11BN building blocks, hyperbolic phonon polaritons can be engineered into a variety of energy-momentum dispersions. These confined and tailored polaritons are promising for various nanophotonic and thermal functionalities. Due to the universality and importance of isotopes, our vdW isotope heterostructuring method can be applied to engineer the properties of a broad range of materials.