Researchers from Nanjing University in China have developed a method to make large graphene films free of any wrinkles. The ultra-smooth films could enable large-scale production of electronic devices that harness the unique physical and chemical properties of graphene and other 2D materials.
Wrinkles in graphene films grown via chemical vapor deposition appear as jagged white lines at the top of this atomic force microscope image (left), but they disappear when the material is treated with a hydrogen plasma (right). Credit: Nature
Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is the best-known method for making high-quality graphene sheets. It typically involves growing graphene by pumping methane gas onto copper substrates heated to temperatures around 1,000 °C, and then transferring the graphene to another surface such as silicon. But some of the graphene sticks to the copper surface, and as the graphene and copper expand and contract at different rates, wrinkles form in the graphene sheets. Such wrinkles often present hurdles for charge carriers and lower the film’s conductivity. Other researchers have tried to reduce wrinkles using low growth temperatures or special copper substrates, but the wrinkles have proven difficult to eliminate entirely, according to Libo Gao, a physicist at Nanjing University.