Let It Rip! Scotch Tape in Quantum Research

Scotch tape? Yes, Scotch tape, that well-known brand of adhesive, is an essential ingredient in quantum physics. The notable “Scotch tape technique” is used to separate two-dimensional layers of materials that are just a single atom thin from their bulk three-dimensional crystals.

“Just by messing with the van der Waals interactions we can peel off a material, layer by layer,” says Valerie Hsieh, a PhD student in physics professor Cory Dean’s lab.

The technique led to a Nobel Prize in 2010. Today, Columbia students use it to prepare samples for studying how graphene conducts an electric current, among other quantum phenomena. Layers can be stacked and twisted to create different quantum effects, which researchers at Columbia hope to harness in building more efficient electronic devices. It all starts with a little tape. To get a close-up look at the technique, check out this short video!