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Closing the performance gap between natural and synthetic graphene

Researchers from RWTH Aachen University and the PGI-9 at the Forschungszentrum Jülich report on a breakthrough in producing high quality synthetic graphene by chemical vapor deposition.

What started more than 10 years ago as a fun experiment for Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov - using scotch-tape to exfoliate layers of graphene from a piece of natural graphite - has now grown into a huge research field worldwide, with investments of billions of Euro. This is motivated by the exceptional properties of graphene, which earned it the name of "wonder material". Graphene is in fact extremely strong and flexible, is optically transparent and conducts electricity better than any other material. Thanks to this unique combination of properties, graphene has the potential to be a disruptive technology for several applications, ranging from touch-screens, to ultra-high frequency electronics, to flexible optoelectronics.

One of the main current limitations to the industrial applications of graphene is the way it is produced: the "scotch-tape method" is good for research labs, but it is totally unsuited for mass production. A way around this problem is to move away from natural graphite and to synthesize graphene from simple and abundant chemical elements, such as methane. This is the principle of chemical vapor deposition (CVD), a method in which large and pristine graphene flakes can be produced by exploiting the natural reactions between methane and a heated copper surface.

CVD is a highly scalable and cost-efficient fabrication technology. However, up to now, graphene synthesized this way appeared to be significantly poorer in quality than the one obtained with the "scotch-tape method", especially for what concerns the electronic properties. This is radically changing now. Banszerus and coworkers demonstrate a novel fabrication process based on CVD that yields ultra-high quality synthetic graphene samples. This process is suitable for scaling to industrial production, and represents a major advance that narrows the gap between graphene research and its technological applications.

This research work is published in Science Advances 1, e1500222 (2015) with the title “Ultrahigh-mobility graphene devices from chemical vapor deposition on reusable copper” [1]. The work has been performed in Christoph Stampfer's lab, within the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), and is financially supported by the European Commission under the project Flagship Graphene and the European Research Council (ERC).

The work has also been selected as a research highlight in Nature Magazine [2].

[1] L. Banszerus et al., Ultrahigh-mobility graphene devices from chemical vapor deposition on reusable copper, Science Advances 1, e1500222 (2015).
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500222
[2] Scaling up pure graphene growth, Nature 524, 9 (2015).
DOI: 10.1038/524009d

Closing the performance gap between natural and synthetic graphenePictured (from left): Luca Banszerus, Professor Christoph Stampfer, Michael Schmitz and Stephan Engels in front of the CVD oven for the growth of graphene. (Copyright: Peter Winandy).