Continuum scaling laws often break down when materials approach atomic length scales, reflecting changes in their underlying physics and the opportunities to access unconventional properties. These continuum limits are evident in two-dimensional materials, where there is no consensus on their bending stiffnesses or how they scale with thickness. Through combined computational and electron microscopy experiments, we measure the bending stiffness of graphene, obtaining 1.2–1.7 eV for a monolayer. Moreover, we find that the bending stiffness of few-layer graphene decreases sharply as a function of bending angle, tuning by almost 400% for trilayer graphene. This softening results from shear, slip and the onset of superlubricity between the atomic layers and corresponds with a gradual change in scaling power from cubic to linear. Our results provide a unified model for bending in two-dimensional materials and show that their multilayers can be orders of magnitude softer than previously thought, among the most flexible electronic materials currently known.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Materials
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

Cite this

Han, E., Yu, J., Annevelink, E., Son, J., Kang, D. A., Watanabe, K., Taniguchi, T., Ertekin, E., Huang, P. Y., & van der Zande, A. M. (Accepted/In press). Ultrasoft slip-mediated bending in few-layer graphene. Nature Materials. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-019-0529-7