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1.  Routes to rupture and folding of graphene on rough 6H-SiC(0001) and their identification 
Twisted few layer graphene (FLG) is highly attractive from an application point of view, due to its extraordinary electronic properties. In order to study its properties, we demonstrate and discuss three different routes to in situ create and identify (twisted) FLG. Single layer graphene (SLG) sheets mechanically exfoliated under ambient conditions on 6H-SiC(0001) are modified by (i) swift heavy ion (SHI) irradiation, (ii) by a force microscope tip and (iii) by severe heating. The resulting surface topography and the surface potential are investigated with non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM). SHI irradiation results in rupture of the SLG sheets, thereby creating foldings and bilayer graphene (BLG). Applying the other modification methods creates enlarged (twisted) graphene foldings that show rupture along preferential edges of zigzag and armchair type. Peeling at a folding over an edge different from a low index crystallographic direction can result in twisted BLG, showing a similar height as Bernal (or AA-stacked) BLG in NC-AFM images. The rotational stacking can be identified by a significant contrast in the local contact potential difference (LCPD) measured by KPFM.
PMCID: PMC3817683  PMID: 24205456
graphene; Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM), local contact potential difference (LCPD); non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); SiC
2.  Nanoscale structural characterization of epitaxial graphene grown on off-axis 4H-SiC (0001) 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2011;6(1):269.
In this work, we present a nanometer resolution structural characterization of epitaxial graphene (EG) layers grown on 4H-SiC (0001) 8° off-axis, by annealing in inert gas ambient (Ar) in a wide temperature range (Tgr from 1600 to 2000°C). For all the considered growth temperatures, few layers of graphene (FLG) conformally covering the 100 to 200-nm wide terraces of the SiC surface have been observed by high-resolution cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy (HR-XTEM). Tapping mode atomic force microscopy (t-AFM) showed the formation of wrinkles with approx. 1 to 2 nm height and 10 to 20 nm width in the FLG film, as a result of the release of the compressive strain, which builds up in FLG during the sample cooling due to the thermal expansion coefficients mismatch between graphene and SiC. While for EG grown on on-axis 4H-SiC an isotropic mesh-like network of wrinkles interconnected into nodes is commonly reported, in the present case of a vicinal SiC surface, wrinkles are preferentially oriented in the direction perpendicular to the step edges of the SiC terraces. For each Tgr, the number of graphene layers was determined on very small sample areas by HR-XTEM and, with high statistics and on several sample positions, by measuring the depth of selectively etched trenches in FLG by t-AFM. Both the density of wrinkles and the number of graphene layers are found to increase almost linearly as a function of the growth temperature in the considered temperature range.
PMCID: PMC3211332  PMID: 21711803
3.  Investigation of structural and electronic properties of epitaxial graphene on 3C–SiC(100)/Si(100) substrates 
Graphene has been intensively studied in recent years in order to take advantage of its unique properties. Its synthesis on SiC substrates by solid-state graphitization appears a suitable option for graphene-based electronics. However, before developing devices based on epitaxial graphene, it is desirable to understand and finely control the synthesis of material with the most promising properties. To achieve these prerequisites, many studies are being conducted on various SiC substrates. Here, we review 3C–SiC(100) epilayers grown by chemical vapor deposition on Si(100) substrates for producing graphene by solid state graphitization under ultrahigh-vacuum conditions. Based on various characterization techniques, the structural and electrical properties of epitaxial graphene layer grown on 3C–SiC(100)/Si(100) are discussed. We establish that epitaxial graphene presents properties similar to those obtained using hexagonal SiC substrates, with the advantage of being compatible with current Si-processing technology.
PMCID: PMC4203311  PMID: 25339846
epitaxial graphene; electronic properties; structural properties; silicon carbide
4.  An NC-AFM and KPFM study of the adsorption of a triphenylene derivative on KBr(001) 
The adsorption on KBr(001) of a specially designed molecule, consisting of a flat aromatic triphenylene core equipped with six flexible propyl chains ending with polar cyano groups, is investigated by using atomic force microscopy in the noncontact mode (NC-AFM) coupled to Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) in ultrahigh vacuum at room temperature. Two types of monolayers are identified, one in which the molecules lie flat on the surface (MLh) and another in which they stand approximately upright (MLv). The Kelvin voltage on these two structures is negatively shifted relative to that of the clean KBr surface, revealing the presence of surface dipoles with a component pointing along the normal to the surface. These findings are interpreted with the help of numerical simulations. It is shown that the surface–molecule interaction is dominated by the electrostatic interaction of the cyano groups with the K+ ions of the substrate. The molecule is strongly adsorbed in the MLh structure with an adsorption energy of 1.8 eV. In the MLv layer, the molecules form π-stacked rows aligned along the polar directions of the KBr surface. In these rows, the molecules are less strongly bound to the substrate, but the structure is stabilized by the strong intermolecular interaction due to π-stacking.
PMCID: PMC3323911  PMID: 22496995
atomic force microscopy; insulating surfaces; Kelvin force probe microscopy; molecular adsorption
5.  Flower-Shaped Domains and Wrinkles in Trilayer Epitaxial Graphene on Silicon Carbide 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:4066.
Trilayer graphene is of particular interest to the 2D materials community because of its unique tunable electronic structure. However, to date, there is a lack of fundamental understanding of the properties of epitaxial trilayer graphene on silicon carbide. Here, following successful synthesis of large-area uniform trilayer graphene, atomic force microscopy (AFM) showed that the trilayer graphene on 6H-SiC(0001) was uniform over a large scale. Additionally, distinct defects, identified as flower-shaped domains and isolated wrinkle structures, were observed randomly on the surface using scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy (STM/STS). These carbon nanostructures formed during growth, has different structural and electronic properties when compared with the adjacent flat regions of the graphene. Finally, using low temperature STM/STS at 4K, we found that the isolated wrinkles showed an irreversible rotational motion between two 60° configurations at different densities of states.
PMCID: PMC3920218  PMID: 24513669
6.  SiC surface orientation and Si loss rate effects on epitaxial graphene 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2012;7(1):186.
We have explored the properties of SiC-based epitaxial graphene grown in a cold wall UHV chamber. The effects of the SiC surface orientation and silicon loss rate were investigated by comparing the characteristics of each formed graphene. Graphene was grown by thermal decomposition on both the silicon (0001) and carbon (000-1) faces of on-axis semi-insulating 6H-SiC with a "face-down" and "face-up" orientations. The thermal gradient, in relation to the silicon flux from the surface, was towards the surface and away from the surface, respectively, in the two configurations. Raman results indicate the disorder characteristics represented by ID/IG down to < 0.02 in Si-face samples and < 0.05 in C-faces over the 1 cm2 wafer surface grown at 1,450°C. AFM examination shows a better morphology in face-down surfaces. This study suggests that the optimum configuration slows the thermal decomposition and allows the graphene to form near the equilibrium. The Si-face-down orientation (in opposition to the temperature gradient) results in a better combination of low disorder ratio, ID/IG, and smooth surface morphology. Mobility of Si-face-down orientation has been measured as high as approximately 1,500 cm2/Vs at room temperature. Additionally, the field effect transistors have been fabricated on both Si-face-down and C-face-down showing an ambipolar behavior with more favorable electron conduction.
PMCID: PMC3323459  PMID: 22410299
7.  Origin of New Broad Raman D and G Peaks in Annealed Graphene 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2700.
Since graphene, a single sheet of graphite, has all of its carbon atoms on the surface, its property is very sensitive to materials contacting the surface. Herein, we report novel Raman peaks observed in annealed graphene and elucidate their chemical origins by Raman spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Graphene annealed in oxygen-free atmosphere revealed very broad additional Raman peaks overlapping the D, G and 2D peaks of graphene itself. Based on the topographic confirmation by AFM, the new Raman peaks were attributed to amorphous carbon formed on the surface of graphene by carbonization of environmental hydrocarbons. While the carbonaceous layers were formed for a wide range of annealing temperature and time, they could be effectively removed by prolonged annealing in vacuum. This study underlines that spectral features of graphene and presumably other 2-dimensional materials are highly vulnerable to interference by foreign materials of molecular thickness.
PMCID: PMC3776959  PMID: 24048447
8.  Multiscale investigation of graphene layers on 6H-SiC(000-1) 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2011;6(1):171.
In this article, a multiscale investigation of few graphene layers grown on 6H-SiC(000-1) under ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) conditions is presented. At 100-μm scale, the authors show that the UHV growth yields few layer graphene (FLG) with an average thickness given by Auger spectroscopy between 1 and 2 graphene planes. At the same scale, electron diffraction reveals a significant rotational disorder between the first graphene layer and the SiC surface, although well-defined preferred orientations exist. This is confirmed at the nanometer scale by scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). Finally, STM (at the nm scale) and Raman spectroscopy (at the μm scale) show that the FLG stacking is turbostratic, and that the domain size of the crystallites ranges from 10 to 100 nm. The most striking result is that the FLGs experience a strong compressive stress that is seldom observed for graphene grown on the C face of SiC substrates.
PMCID: PMC3211224  PMID: 21711702
9.  Atomic Structures of Silicene Layers Grown on Ag(111): Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Noncontact Atomic Force Microscopy Observations 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2399.
Silicene, the considered equivalent of graphene for silicon, has been recently synthesized on Ag(111) surfaces. Following the tremendous success of graphene, silicene might further widen the horizon of two-dimensional materials with new allotropes artificially created. Due to stronger spin-orbit coupling, lower group symmetry and different chemistry compared to graphene, silicene presents many new interesting features. Here, we focus on very important aspects of silicene layers on Ag(111): First, we present scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and non-contact Atomic Force Microscopy (nc-AFM) observations of the major structures of single layer and bi-layer silicene in epitaxy with Ag(111). For the (3 × 3) reconstructed first silicene layer nc-AFM represents the same lateral arrangement of silicene atoms as STM and therefore provides a timely experimental confirmation of the current picture of the atomic silicene structure. Furthermore, both nc-AFM and STM give a unifying interpretation of the second layer (√3 × √3)R ± 30° structure. Finally, we give support to the conjectured possible existence of less stable, ~2% stressed, (√7 × √7)R ± 19.1° rotated silicene domains in the first layer.
PMCID: PMC3739010  PMID: 23928998
10.  Carrier type inversion in quasi-free standing graphene: studies of local electronic and structural properties 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:10505.
We investigate the local surface potential and Raman characteristics of as-grown and ex-situ hydrogen intercalated quasi-free standing graphene on 4H-SiC(0001) grown by chemical vapor deposition. Upon intercalation, transport measurements reveal a change in the carrier type from n- to p-type, accompanied by a more than three-fold increase in carrier mobility, up to μh ≈ 4540 cm2 V−1 s−1. On a local scale, Kelvin probe force microscopy provides a complete and detailed map of the surface potential distribution of graphene domains of different thicknesses. Rearrangement of graphene layers upon intercalation to (n + 1)LG, where n is the number of graphene layers (LG) before intercalation, is demonstrated. This is accompanied by a significant increase in the work function of the graphene after the H2-intercalation, which confirms the change of majority carriers from electrons to holes. Raman spectroscopy and mapping corroborate surface potential studies.
PMCID: PMC4450755  PMID: 26030153
11.  Thermal noise limit for ultra-high vacuum noncontact atomic force microscopy 
The noise of the frequency-shift signal Δf in noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) consists of cantilever thermal noise, tip–surface-interaction noise and instrumental noise from the detection and signal processing systems. We investigate how the displacement-noise spectral density d z at the input of the frequency demodulator propagates to the frequency-shift-noise spectral density d Δ f at the demodulator output in dependence of cantilever properties and settings of the signal processing electronics in the limit of a negligible tip–surface interaction and a measurement under ultrahigh-vacuum conditions. For a quantification of the noise figures, we calibrate the cantilever displacement signal and determine the transfer function of the signal-processing electronics. From the transfer function and the measured d z, we predict d Δ f for specific filter settings, a given level of detection-system noise spectral density d z ds and the cantilever-thermal-noise spectral density d z th. We find an excellent agreement between the calculated and measured values for d Δ f. Furthermore, we demonstrate that thermal noise in d Δ f, defining the ultimate limit in NC-AFM signal detection, can be kept low by a proper choice of the cantilever whereby its Q-factor should be given most attention. A system with a low-noise signal detection and a suitable cantilever, operated with appropriate filter and feedback-loop settings allows room temperature NC-AFM measurements at a low thermal-noise limit with a significant bandwidth.
PMCID: PMC3566860  PMID: 23400758
Cantilever; feedback loop; filter; noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); noise
12.  Green chemistry approach for the synthesis of biocompatible graphene 
Graphene is a single-atom thick, two-dimensional sheet of hexagonally arranged carbon atoms isolated from its three-dimensional parent material, graphite. One of the most common methods for preparation of graphene is chemical exfoliation of graphite using powerful oxidizing agents. Generally, graphene is synthesized through deoxygenation of graphene oxide (GO) by using hydrazine, which is one of the most widespread and strongest reducing agents. Due to the high toxicity of hydrazine, it is not a promising reducing agent in large-scale production of graphene; therefore, this study focused on a green or sustainable synthesis of graphene and the biocompatibility of graphene in primary mouse embryonic fibroblast cells (PMEFs).
Here, we demonstrated a simple, rapid, and green chemistry approach for the synthesis of reduced GO (rGO) from GO using triethylamine (TEA) as a reducing agent and stabilizing agent. The obtained TEA reduced GO (TEA-rGO) was characterized by ultraviolet (UV)–visible absorption spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), particle size dynamic light scattering (DLS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy (AFM).
The transition of graphene oxide to graphene was confirmed by UV–visible spectroscopy. XRD and SEM were used to investigate the crystallinity of graphene and the surface morphologies of prepared graphene respectively. The formation of defects further supports the functionalization of graphene as indicated in the Raman spectrum of TEA-rGO. Surface morphology and the thickness of the GO and TEA-rGO were analyzed using AFM. The presented results suggest that TEA-rGO shows significantly more biocompatibility with PMEFs cells than GO.
This is the first report about using TEA as a reducing as well as a stabilizing agent for the preparation of biocompatible graphene. The proposed safe and green method offers substitute routes for large-scale production of graphene for several biomedical applications.
PMCID: PMC3736970  PMID: 23940417
graphene oxide; graphene; triethylamine; ultraviolet; visible spectroscopy; Raman spectroscopy; atomic force microscopy
13.  Electroburning of few-layer graphene flakes, epitaxial graphene, and turbostratic graphene discs in air and under vacuum 
Graphene-based electrodes are very promising for molecular electronics and spintronics. Here we report a systematic characterization of the electroburning (EB) process, leading to the formation of nanometer-spaced gaps, on different types of few-layer graphene (namely mechanically exfoliated graphene on SiO2, graphene epitaxially grown on the C-face of SiC and turbostratic graphene discs deposited on SiO2) under air and vacuum conditions. The EB process is found to depend on both the graphene type and on the ambient conditions. For the mechanically exfoliated graphene, performing EB under vacuum leads to a higher yield of nanometer-gap formation than working in air. Conversely, for graphene on SiC the EB process is not successful under vacuum. Finally, the EB is possible with turbostratic graphene discs only after the creation of a constriction in the sample using lithographic patterning.
PMCID: PMC4362043  PMID: 25821711
graphene; graphene based electrodes; molecular electronics; molecular spintronics
14.  Apertureless scanning near-field optical microscopy of sparsely labeled tobacco mosaic viruses and the intermediate filament desmin 
Both fluorescence imaging and atomic force microscopy (AFM) are highly versatile and extensively used in applications ranging from nanotechnology to life sciences. In fluorescence microscopy luminescent dyes serve as position markers. Moreover, they can be used as active reporters of their local vicinity. The dipolar coupling of the tip with the incident light and the fluorophore give rise to a local field and fluorescence enhancement. AFM topographic imaging allows for resolutions down to the atomic scale. It can be operated in vacuum, under ambient conditions and in liquids. This makes it ideal for the investigation of a wide range of different samples. Furthermore an illuminated AFM cantilever tip apex exposes strongly confined non-propagating electromagnetic fields that can serve as a coupling agent for single dye molecules. Thus, combining both techniques by means of apertureless scanning near-field optical microscopy (aSNOM) enables concurrent high resolution topography and fluorescence imaging. Commonly, among the various (apertureless) SNOM approaches metallic or metallized probes are used. Here, we report on our custom-built aSNOM setup, which uses commercially available monolithic silicon AFM cantilevers. The field enhancement confined to the tip apex facilitates an optical resolution down to 20 nm. Furthermore, the use of standard mass-produced AFM cantilevers spares elaborate probe production or modification processes. We investigated tobacco mosaic viruses and the intermediate filament protein desmin. Both are mixed complexes of building blocks, which are fluorescently labeled to a low degree. The simultaneous recording of topography and fluorescence data allows for the exact localization of distinct building blocks within the superordinate structures.
PMCID: PMC3778390  PMID: 24062977
apertureless scanning near-field optical microscope; atomic force microscopy; fluorescence microscopy
15.  Effect of the tip state during qPlus noncontact atomic force microscopy of Si(100) at 5 K: Probing the probe 
Background: Noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) now regularly produces atomic-resolution images on a wide range of surfaces, and has demonstrated the capability for atomic manipulation solely using chemical forces. Nonetheless, the role of the tip apex in both imaging and manipulation remains poorly understood and is an active area of research both experimentally and theoretically. Recent work employing specially functionalised tips has provided additional impetus to elucidating the role of the tip apex in the observed contrast.
Results: We present an analysis of the influence of the tip apex during imaging of the Si(100) substrate in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) at 5 K using a qPlus sensor for noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM). Data demonstrating stable imaging with a range of tip apexes, each with a characteristic imaging signature, have been acquired. By imaging at close to zero applied bias we eliminate the influence of tunnel current on the force between tip and surface, and also the tunnel-current-induced excitation of silicon dimers, which is a key issue in scanning probe studies of Si(100).
Conclusion: A wide range of novel imaging mechanisms are demonstrated on the Si(100) surface, which can only be explained by variations in the precise structural configuration at the apex of the tip. Such images provide a valuable resource for theoreticians working on the development of realistic tip structures for NC-AFM simulations. Force spectroscopy measurements show that the tip termination critically affects both the short-range force and dissipated energy.
PMCID: PMC3304327  PMID: 22428093
force spectroscopy; image contrast; noncontact AFM; qPlus; Si(001); Si(100); tip (apex) structure
16.  Defects in oxide surfaces studied by atomic force and scanning tunneling microscopy 
Surfaces of thin oxide films were investigated by means of a dual mode NC-AFM/STM. Apart from imaging the surface termination by NC-AFM with atomic resolution, point defects in magnesium oxide on Ag(001) and line defects in aluminum oxide on NiAl(110), respectively, were thoroughly studied. The contact potential was determined by Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) and the electronic structure by scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS). On magnesium oxide, different color centers, i.e., F0, F+, F2+ and divacancies, have different effects on the contact potential. These differences enabled classification and unambiguous differentiation by KPFM. True atomic resolution shows the topography at line defects in aluminum oxide. At these domain boundaries, STS and KPFM verify F2+-like centers, which have been predicted by density functional theory calculations. Thus, by determining the contact potential and the electronic structure with a spatial resolution in the nanometer range, NC-AFM and STM can be successfully applied on thin oxide films beyond imaging the topography of the surface atoms.
PMCID: PMC3045939  PMID: 21977410
aluminum oxide; charge state; contact potential; defects; domain boundaries; dynamic force microscopy; frequency modulation atomic force microscopy; Kelvin probe force microscopy; magnesium oxide; non-contact atomic force microscopy; scanning tunneling microscopy; thin films; work function
17.  Fabrication of [001]-oriented tungsten tips for high resolution scanning tunneling microscopy 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:3742.
The structure of the [001]-oriented single crystalline tungsten probes sharpened in ultra-high vacuum using electron beam heating and ion sputtering has been studied using scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The electron microscopy data prove reproducible fabrication of the single-apex tips with nanoscale pyramids grained by the {011} planes at the apexes. These sharp, [001]-oriented tungsten tips have been successfully utilized in high resolution scanning tunneling microscopy imaging of HOPG(0001), SiC(001) and graphene/SiC(001) surfaces. The electron microscopy characterization performed before and after the high resolution STM experiments provides direct correlation between the tip structure and picoscale spatial resolution achieved in the experiments.
PMCID: PMC3894555  PMID: 24434734
18.  Ultrastable Atomic Force Microscopy: Atomic-Scale Stability and Registration in Ambient Conditions 
Nano letters  2009;9(4):1451-1456.
Instrumental drift in atomic force microscopy (AFM) remains a critical, largely unaddressed issue that limits tip–sample stability, registration, and the signal-to-noise ratio during imaging. By scattering a laser off the apex of a commercial AFM tip, we locally measured and thereby actively controlled its three-dimensional position above a sample surface to <40 pm (Δf = 0.01–10 Hz) in air at room temperature. With this enhanced stability, we overcame the traditional need to scan rapidly while imaging and achieved a 5-fold increase in the image signal-to-noise ratio. Finally, we demonstrated atomic-scale (~100 pm) tip–sample stability and registration over tens of minutes with a series of AFM images on transparent substrates. The stabilization technique requires low laser power (<1 mW), imparts a minimal perturbation upon the cantilever, and is independent of the tip–sample interaction. This work extends atomic-scale tip–sample control, previously restricted to cryogenic temperatures and ultrahigh vacuum, to a wide range of perturbative operating environments.
PMCID: PMC2953871  PMID: 19351191
19.  Ginkgo biloba: a natural reducing agent for the synthesis of cytocompatible graphene 
Graphene is a novel two-dimensional planar nanocomposite material consisting of rings of carbon atoms with a hexagonal lattice structure. Graphene exhibits unique physical, chemical, mechanical, electrical, elasticity, and cytocompatible properties that lead to many potential biomedical applications. Nevertheless, the water-insoluble property of graphene restricts its application in various aspects of biomedical fields. Therefore, the objective of this work was to find a novel biological approach for an efficient method to synthesize water-soluble and cytocompatible graphene using Ginkgo biloba extract (GbE) as a reducing and stabilizing agent. In addition, we investigated the biocompatibility effects of graphene in MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells.
Materials and methods
Synthesized graphene oxide (GO) and GbE-reduced GO (Gb-rGO) were characterized using various sequences of techniques: ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectroscopy, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), dynamic light scattering (DLS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and Raman spectroscopy. Biocompatibility of GO and Gb-rGO was assessed in human breast cancer cells using a series of assays, including cell viability, apoptosis, and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity.
The successful synthesis of graphene was confirmed by UV-vis spectroscopy and FTIR. DLS analysis was performed to determine the average size of GO and Gb-rGO. X-ray diffraction studies confirmed the crystalline nature of graphene. SEM was used to investigate the surface morphologies of GO and Gb-rGO. AFM was employed to investigate the morphologies of prepared graphene and the height profile of GO and Gb-rGO. The formation of defects in Gb-rGO was confirmed by Raman spectroscopy. The biocompatibility of the prepared GO and Gb-rGO was investigated using a water-soluble tetrazolium 8 assay on human breast cancer cells. GO exhibited a dose-dependent toxicity, whereas Gb-rGO-treated cells showed significant biocompatibility and increased ALP activity compared to GO.
In this work, a nontoxic natural reducing agent of GbE was used to prepare soluble graphene. The as-prepared Gb-rGO showed significant biocompatibility with human cancer cells. This simple, cost-effective, and green procedure offers an alternative route for large-scale production of rGO, and could be used for various biomedical applications, such as tissue engineering, drug delivery, biosensing, and molecular imaging.
PMCID: PMC3890967  PMID: 24453487
alkaline phosphatase activity; atomic force microscopy; biocompatibility; cell viability; graphene; Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy; scanning electron microscopy; Raman spectroscopy; UV-visible spectroscopy
20.  Metal Oxide Nanoparticle Growth on Graphene via Chemical Activation with Atomic Oxygen 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2013;135(48):10.1021/ja408248z.
Chemically interfacing the inert basal plane of graphene with other materials has limited the development of graphene-based catalysts, composite materials, and devices. Here, we overcome this limitation by chemically activating epitaxial graphene on SiC(0001) using atomic oxygen. Atomic oxygen produces epoxide groups on graphene, which act as reactive nucleation sites for zinc oxide nanoparticle growth using the atomic layer deposition precursor diethyl zinc. In particular, exposure of epoxidized graphene to diethyl zinc abstracts oxygen, creating mobile species which diffuse on the surface to form metal oxide clusters. This mechanism is corroborated with a combination of scanning probe microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and density functional theory, and can likely be generalized to a wide variety of related surface reactions on graphene.
PMCID: PMC3883755  PMID: 24206242
21.  Graphene from Amorphous Titanium Carbide by Chlorination under 200°C and Atmospheric Pressures 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5494.
The synthesis of graphene via decomposition of SiC has opened a promising route for large-scale production of graphene. However, extremely high requirements for almost perfectly ordered crystal SiC and harsh process conditions such as high temperatures (>1200°C) and ultra-high vacuum are two significant challenges hindering its wide use to synthesize graphene by decomposition of SiC. Here, we show that the readily available precursor of carbides, amorphous TiC (a-Ti1-xCx), can be transformed into graphene nanosheets (GNS) with tunable layers by chlorination method at very low temperatures (200°C) and ambient pressures. Moreover, freestanding GNS can be achieved by stripping off GNS from the surface of resulting particles. Therefore, our strategy, the direct transformation of a-Ti1-xCx into graphene, is simple and expected to be easily scaled up.
PMCID: PMC4074788  PMID: 24974942
22.  Synthesis, structure, and opto-electronic properties of organic-based nanoscale heterojunctions 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2011;6(1):238.
Enormous research effort has been put into optimizing organic-based opto-electronic systems for efficient generation of free charge carriers. This optimization is mainly due to typically high dissociation energy (0.1-1 eV) and short diffusion length (10 nm) of excitons in organic materials. Inherently, interplay of microscopic structural, chemical, and opto-electronic properties plays crucial role. We show that employing and combining advanced scanning probe techniques can provide us significant insight into the correlation of these properties. By adjusting parameters of contact- and tapping-mode atomic force microscopy (AFM), we perform morphologic and mechanical characterizations (nanoshaving) of organic layers, measure their electrical conductivity by current-sensing AFM, and deduce work functions and surface photovoltage (SPV) effects by Kelvin force microscopy using high spatial resolution. These data are further correlated with local material composition detected using micro-Raman spectroscopy and with other electronic transport data. We demonstrate benefits of this multi-dimensional characterizations on (i) bulk heterojunction of fully organic composite films, indicating differences in blend quality and component segregation leading to local shunts of photovoltaic cell, and (ii) thin-film heterojunction of polypyrrole (PPy) electropolymerized on hydrogen-terminated diamond, indicating covalent bonding and transfer of charge carriers from PPy to diamond.
PMCID: PMC3211298  PMID: 21711759
23.  Nanoscale electro-structural characterisation of ohmic contacts formed on p-type implanted 4H-SiC 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2011;6(1):158.
This work reports a nanoscale electro-structural characterisation of Ti/Al ohmic contacts formed on p-type Al-implanted silicon carbide (4H-SiC). The morphological and the electrical properties of the Al-implanted layer, annealed at 1700°C with or without a protective capping layer, and of the ohmic contacts were studied using atomic force microscopy [AFM], transmission line model measurements and local current measurements performed with conductive AFM.
The characteristics of the contacts were significantly affected by the roughness of the underlying SiC. In particular, the surface roughness of the Al-implanted SiC regions annealed at 1700°C could be strongly reduced using a protective carbon capping layer during annealing. This latter resulted in an improved surface morphology and specific contact resistance of the Ti/Al ohmic contacts formed on these regions. The microstructure of the contacts was monitored by X-ray diffraction analysis and a cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy, and correlated with the electrical results.
PMCID: PMC3211209  PMID: 21711667
24.  Thin films with high surface roughness: thickness and dielectric function analysis using spectroscopic ellipsometry 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:82.
An optical surface roughness model is presented, which allows a reliable determination of the dielectric function of thin films with high surface roughnesses of more than 10 nm peak to valley distance by means of spectroscopic ellipsometry. Starting from histogram evaluation of atomic force microscopy (AFM) topography measurements a specific roughness layer (RL) model was developed for an organic thin film grown in vacuum which is well suited as an example. Theoretical description based on counting statistics allows generalizing the RL model developed to be used for all non-conducting materials. Finally, a direct input of root mean square (RMS) values found by AFM measurements into the proposed model is presented, which is important for complex ellipsometric evaluation models where a reduction of the amount of unknown parameters can be crucial. Exemplarily, the evaluation of a N,N’-dimethoxyethyl-3,4,9,10-perylene-tetracarboxylic-diimide (DiMethoxyethyl-PTCDI) film is presented, which exhibits a very high surface roughness, i.e. showing no homogeneous film at all.
PMCID: PMC3929596  PMID: 24570853
Ellipsometry; Roughness; Thickness; AFM; RMS; Dielectric function; PTCDI
25.  Surface Chemistry Involved in Epitaxy of Graphene on 3C-SiC(111)/Si(111) 
Nanoscale Research Letters  2010;5(12):1888-1891.
Surface chemistry involved in the epitaxy of graphene by sublimating Si atoms from the surface of epitaxial 3C-SiC(111) thin films on Si(111) has been studied. The change in the surface composition during graphene epitaxy is monitored by in situ temperature-programmed desorption spectroscopy using deuterium as a probe (D2-TPD) and complementarily by ex situ Raman and C1s core-level spectroscopies. The surface of the 3C-SiC(111)/Si(111) is Si-terminated before the graphitization, and it becomes C-terminated via the formation of C-rich (6√3 × 6√3)R30° reconstruction as the graphitization proceeds, in a similar manner as the epitaxy of graphene on Si-terminated 6H-SiC(0001) proceeds.
PMCID: PMC2991215  PMID: 21170403
Graphene; 3C-SiC(111); Si(111); Epitaxy; Surface termination

Results 1-25 (656079)