Size-Selective Carbon Clusters as Obstacles to Graphene Growth on a Metal

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Artaud, Alexandre ; Magaud, Lawrence ; Ratter, Kitti ; Gilles, Bruno ; Guisset, Valérie ; David, Philippe ; Martínez, José I. ; Martín-Gago, José A. ; Chapelier, Claude ; Coraux, Johann (2018)
  • Publisher: American Chemical Society
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b01379, handle: 10261/170812
  • Subject: Carbon clusters | Graphene growth | Density functional theory | Metastability | Kinetics | Scanning tunneling microscopy | Graphene
    arxiv: Physics::Atomic and Molecular Clusters

Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) on metals is so far the best suited method to produce high-quality, large-area graphene. We discovered an unprecedentedly large family of small size-selective carbon clusters that form together with graphene during CVD. Using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and density functional theory (DFT), we unambiguously determine their atomic structure. For that purpose, we use grids based on a graphene moiré and a dilute atomic lattice that unambiguously reveal the binding geometry of the clusters. We find that the observed clusters bind in metastable configurations on the substrate, while the thermodynamically stable configurations are not observed. We argue that the clusters are formed under kinetic control and establish that the evolution of the smallest clusters is blocked. They are hence products of surface reactions in competition with graphene growth, rather than intermediary species to the formation of extended graphene, as often assumed in the literature. We expect such obstacles to the synthesis of perfect graphene to be ubiquitous on a variety of metallic surfaces.
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