Fabrication and Optoelectronic Properties of Graphene Nanoribbons

Eberhard Ulrich Stützel
EPFL, 2013
Thèse EPFL

Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, exhibits excellent charge transport properties. However, due to the absence of a band gap in this two-dimensional carbon nanostructure, graphene-based field effect transistors cannot be turned off. One strategy to increase the on/off ratio relies on patterning graphene into narrow stripes, so-called graphene nanoribbons (GNRs). The present thesis aimed at developing novel fabrication and chemical functionalization methods for GNRs. Along these lines, electrical transport studies and spectroscopic investigations were envisioned as a major tool to monitor the changes brought about by the functional groups attached to the GNRs. GNRs were fabricated with the aid of V2O5 nanofibers or CdSe nanowires as an etching mask during the plasma etching of graphene. The resulting GNRs exhibited good electrical conductivity for ribbon widths as small as 10 nm. Moreover, the transport gap in the GNRs was found to scale inversely with the ribbon width. Scanning tunneling microscopy and surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy testified a good structural quality of the GNRs. Electrical characterization of GNRs revealed a pronounced hysteresis, which was exploited for the fabrication of electrically switchable GNR memory cells. Dynamic pulse response measurements demonstrated reliable switching between two conductivity states for clock frequencies of up to 1 kHz and pulse durations as short as 500 ns for >10^7 cycles. As the most likely switching mechanism, charge trapping within a water layer in the GNR surrounding could be identified. Furthermore, the optoelectronic properties of individual GNRs were studied by scanning photocurrent microscopy. The pronounced photocurrent signal close to the nanoribbon/metal contacts was found to be directly proportional to the conductance of the devices, suggesting that a local voltage source is generated at the nanoribbon/metal interface by the photo-thermoelectric Seebeck effect. The dominance of this mechanism over charge separation via built-in electrical fields was attributed to strong local heating of the GNRs by the laser spot, combined with the reduced thermal conduction capability of the nanoribbons in comparison to extended graphene sheets. Chemical functionalization of graphene and GNRs was attempted via different gas- and liquid-phase approaches. While electrical transport and Raman measurements revealed the presence of significant doping effects, it was not possible to unequivocally prove the covalent attachment of atoms at the GNR edges, neither through changes in the charge transport characteristics, nor via scanning microscopy studies.

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