In situ atomic-scale observation of monolayer graphene growth from SiC


Because of its high compatibility with conventional microfabrication processing technology, epitaxial graphene (EG) grown on SiC shows exceptional promise for graphene-based electronics. However, to date, a detailed understanding of the transformation from three-layer SiC to monolayer graphene is still lacking. Here, we demonstrate the direct atomic-scale observation of EG growth on a SiC (11̅00) surface at 1,000 °C by in situ transmission electron microscopy in combination with ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations. Our detailed analysis of the growth dynamics of monolayer graphene reveals that three SiC (11̅00) layers decompose successively to form one graphene layer. Sublimation of the first layer causes the formation of carbon clusters containing short chains and hexagonal rings, which can be considered as the nuclei for graphene growth. Decomposition of the second layer results in the appearance of new chains connecting to the as-formed clusters and the formation of a network with large pores. Finally, the carbon atoms released from the third layer lead to the disappearance of the chains and large pores in the network, resulting in a whole graphene layer. Our study presents a clear picture of the epitaxial growth of the monolayer graphene from SiC and provides valuable information forfuture developments in SiC-derived EG technology.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 51420105003, 11525415, 11327901, 61274114, 11674052, and 11604047) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Nos. 2242016K41039, MTEC-2015M03, and NJ20150026) and the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (No. BK20160694). W. Z. and F. D. acknowledge the support of Institute for Basic Science, Republic of Korea (No. IBS-R019-D1). X. W. would like to acknowledge support from the Projects of Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (No. 14DZ2260800).

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Correspondence to Feng Ding or Litao Sun.

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Yu, K., Zhao, W., Wu, X. et al. In situ atomic-scale observation of monolayer graphene growth from SiC. Nano Res. 11, 2809–2820 (2018).

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  • graphene
  • epitaxial growth
  • in situ
  • transmission electron microscopy