Equilibrium shape of single-layer hexagonal boron nitride islands on iridium
Large, high-quality layers of hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) are a prerequisite for further advancement in scientific investigation and technological utilization of this exceptional 2D material. Here we address this demand by investigating chemical vapor deposition synthesis of hBN on an Ir(111) substrate, and focus on the substrate morphology, more specifically mono-atomic steps that are always present on all catalytic surfaces of practical use. From low-energy electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy data, we are able to set up an extended Wulff construction scheme and provide a clear elaboration of different interactions governing the equilibrium shapes of the growing hBN islands that deviate from the idealistic triangular form. Most importantly, intrinsic hBN edge energy and interaction with the iridium step edges are examined separately, revealing in such way the importance of substrate step morphology for the island structure and the overall quality of 2D materials.