Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penn Study: Understanding Graphene’s Electrical Properties on an Atomic Level

22.07.2014

Graphene, a material that consists of a lattice of carbon atoms, one atom thick, is widely touted as being the most electrically conductive material ever studied. However, not all graphene is the same. With so few atoms comprising the entirety of the material, the arrangement of each one has an impact on its overall function.

Now, for the first time, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have used a cutting-edge microscope to study the relationship between the atomic geometry of a ribbon of graphene and its electrical properties.


An illustration of a graphene nanoribbon shaped by the beam of a transmission electron microscope. (Credit: Robert Johnson)

A deeper understanding of this relationship will be necessary for the design of graphene-based integrated circuits, computer chips and other electronic devices.

The study was led by professors A.T. Charlie Johnson and Marija Drndić, both of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, along with Zhengqing John Qi, a member of Johnson’s lab, and Julio Rodríguez-Manzo from Drndic’s lab. Sung Ju Hong, then a member of Johnson’s lab, also contributed to the study.

The Penn team collaborated with researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and Seoul National University in South Korea.

Their study was published in the journal Nano Letters.

The team’s experiments were enabled by Brookhaven’s aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope, or AC-TEM. By focusing the microscope’s electron beam, the researchers were able to controllably cut sheets of graphene into ribbons with widths as small as 10 nanometers, while keeping them connected to an electricity source outside the microscope. They then could use the AC-TEM’s nanoscopic resolution to distinguish between individual carbon atoms within those ribbons. This level of precision was necessary to determine how the carbon atoms on the edges of the nanoribbons were oriented.

“We’re relating the structure of the graphene — its atomic arrangement — to its electrical transport properties,” said Drndić. “In particular, we were looking at the edges, which we were able to identify the geometry of.”

“Graphene looks like chicken wire, and you can cut up this hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms in different ways, producing different shapes on the edge,” she said. “But if you cut it one way, it might behave more like a metal, and, if you cut it another way, it could be more like a semiconductor.”  

For any piece of graphene, either the pointy or flat sides of its carbon hexagons might be at the piece’s edge. Where the pointy sides face outward, the edge has a “zig-zag” pattern. Flat sides produce “armchair” pattern when they are on an edge. Any given edge might also display a mix of the two, depending on how the piece of graphene was initially cut and how that edge degrades under stress.   

Because the graphene nanoribbons were connected to an electricity source while they were inside the AC-TEM, the researchers were able to simultaneously trace the outline of the ribbons and measure their conductivity. This allowed the two figures to be correlated.

“If you want to use graphene nanoribbons in computer chips, for example, you absolutely need to have this information,” Johnson said. “People have looked at these ribbons under the microscope, and people have measured their electrical properties without looking at them but never both at the same time.”

After studying the nanoribbons with relatively low levels of electron flow, the researchers turned up the intensity, much like turning up a light bulb using a dimmer switch The combination of the electron bombardment from the microscope and the large amount of electrons flowing through the nanoribbons caused their structures to gradually degrade. As carbon bonds within the nanoribbons broke, they became thinner and the shape of their edges changed, providing additional data points.

“By doing everything within the microscope,” Rodríguez-Manzo said, “we can just follow this transformation to the end, measuring currents for the nanoribbons even when the get smaller than 1 nanometer across. That’s five atoms wide.”

This kind of stress testing is critical to the future design of graphene electronics.

“We have to see how much current we can transport before these nanoribbons fall apart. Our data shows that this figure is high compared to copper,” Rodríguez-Manzo said. 

The harsh conditions also caused some of the ribbons to fold up on themselves, producing nanoscopic graphene loops. Serendipitously, the team found that these loops had desirable properties.  

“When the edges wrap around and form the loops we see,” Johnson said, “it helps hold the structure together, and it makes the current density a thousand higher than what is currently state of the art. That structure would be useful in making interconnects [which are the conducting paths that connect transistors together in integrated circuits].”  

Future research in this field will involve directly comparing the electrical properties of graphene nanoribbons with different widths and edge shapes.

“Once we can cut these nanoribbons atom by atom,” Drndić said, “there will be a lot more we can achieve.”

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Energy, Belgium’s Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique, South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and National Research Foundation and the European Union’s Graphene Flagship Consortium.  

Andrés R. Botello-Méndez and Jean-Christophe Charlierof the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, Eric Stach of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Yung Woo Park of Seoul National University also contributed to the study.

Evan Lerner | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-study-understanding-graphene-s-electrical-properties-atomic-level

Further reports about: Atomic Electrical Laboratory electricity geometry graphene nanoribbons properties structure

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
01.12.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht New process produces hydrogen at much lower temperature
01.12.2016 | Waseda University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>