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Graphene Growth on Low Carbon Solubility Metals


Advances in synthesis are imperative if graphene is to fulfill its scientific and technological potential. Single crystal graphene of is currently available only in the small flakes generated by mechanical exfoliation. Layers of larger size may be grown either by the thermal decomposition of SiC or by chemical vapor deposition on metals. However, as they are currently implemented, these methods yield graphene films of inferior quality. Thus the requirement for wafer-scale, high-quality graphene films remains unmet. This dissertation addresses this issue by examining graphene growth on metal surfaces. Through a survey of the fundamental underlying processes, it provides guidance for improving the quality of the resulting graphene films.

Graphene was grown on Cu(100), Cu(111), and Au(111) by physical vapor deposition of elemental C. The nucleation and growth behaviors of graphene were evaluated by low-energy electron microscopy. Graphene tends to nucleate heterogeneously at surface imperfections although it also does so homogeneously on Cu(111) and Au(111). Graphene growing on Cu(100) is governed by the attachment kinetics of C at the propagating crystal front. The resulting angularly dependent growth rate sculpts individual crystals into elongated lobes. In contrast, graphene growth on both Cu(111) and Au(111) is surface diffusion limited. This yields ramified, dendritic graphene islands.

Graphene films grown on Cu(100) contain significant rotational disorder. This disorder is partially attributable to the symmetry mismatch between film and substrate. The common symmetry between graphene and Cu(111) contributes to a significant reduction in disorder in films grown on this surface. Most graphene domains occupy a ~6º arc of orientations. On Au(111) the vast majority of graphene domains are locked into alignment with the substrate surface. The extraordinary extent of their orientational homogeneity is such that the resulting graphene film is a quasi-single crystal. The findings presented illustrate how metal species and crystal symmetry influence the structural properties of monolayer graphene. The selection of an optimal substrate for graphene growth can significantly reduce crystalline disorder in the resulting film.

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