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Rippling of graphitic surfaces: a comparison between few-layer graphene and HOPG


The surface structure of Few-Layer Graphene (FLG) epitaxially grown on the C-face of SiC has been investigated by TM-AFM in ambient air and upon interaction with diluted aqueous solutions of bio-organic molecules (L-Methionine and dimethyl sulfoxide, DMSO). Before interaction with molecular solutions, we observe nicely ordered, three-fold oriented rippled domains, with a 4.7±0.2 nm periodicity (small periodicity, SP) and a peak-to-valley distance in the range 0.1÷0.2 nm. Upon mild interaction with the molecular solution, the ripple periodicity “relaxes” to 6.2±0.2 nm (large periodicity, LP), while the peak-to-valley height increases to 0.2÷0.3 nm. When additional energy is transferred to the system through sonication in solution, graphene planes are peeled off, as shown by quantitative analysis of Raman and X-ray photolectron spectroscopy which indicate a neat reduction of thickness. Upon exfoliation rippled domains are no longer observed. In comparative experiments on cleaved HOPG, we could not observe ripples on pristine samples in ambient air, while LP ripples develop upon interaction with the molecular solutions. Recent literature on similar systems is not univocal regarding the interpretation of rippling. The ensemble of our comparative observations on FLG and HOPG can be hardly rationalized solely on the base of surface assembly of molecules, either organic molecules coming from the solution or adventitious species. We propose to consider rippling as the manifestation of the free-energy minimization of quasi-2D layers, eventually affected by factors such as the interplane stacking, the interaction with molecules and/or with the AFM tip.

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Publication details

The article was accepted on 10 Apr 2018 and first published on 12 Apr 2018

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8CP01039K
Citation: Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2018, Accepted Manuscript
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    Rippling of graphitic surfaces: a comparison between few-layer graphene and HOPG

    N. Haghighian, D. Convertino, V. Miseikis, F. Bisio, A. Morgante, C. Coletti, M. Canepa and O. Cavalleri, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2018, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C8CP01039K

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