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Digital twins and deep learning segmentation of defects in monolayer MX2 phases

by Addis S Fuhr, Panchapakesan Ganesh, Rama K Vasudevan, Kevin M Roccapriore, Bobby G Sumpter
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Applied Physics Letters
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Developing methods to understand and control defect formation in nanomaterials offers a promising route for materials discovery. Monolayer MX2 phases represent a particularly compelling case for defect engineering of nanomaterials due to the large variability in their physical properties as different defects are introduced into their structure. However, effective identification and quantification of defects remain a challenge even as high-throughput scanning transmission electron microscopy methods improve. This study highlights the benefits of employing first principles calculations to produce digital twins for training deep learning segmentation models for defect identification in monolayer MX2 phases. Around 600 defect structures were obtained using density functional theory calculations, with each monolayer MX2 structure being subjected to multislice simulations for the purpose of generating the digital twins. Several deep learning segmentation architectures were trained on this dataset, and their performances evaluated under a variety of conditions such as recognizing defects in the presence of unidentified impurities, beam damage, grain boundaries, and with reduced image quality from low electron doses. This digital twin approach allows benchmarking different deep learning architectures on a theory dataset, which enables the study of defect classification under a broad array of finely controlled conditions. It thus opens the door to resolving the underpinning physical reasons for model shortcomings and potentially chart paths forward for automated discovery of materials defect phases in experiments.