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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P019080/1
Title: Strain-engineered graphene: growth, modification and electronic properties
Principal Investigator: Beton, Professor PH
Other Investigators:
Foxon, Professor CT Mellor, Dr CJ Eaves, Professor L
Moriarty, Professor PJ Khlobystov, Professor A Novikov, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
BGT Materials Ltd Dr Eberl MBE Komponenten National Graphene Institute
National Physical Laboratory University of Manchester, The
Department: Sch of Physics & Astronomy
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 February 2017 Ends: 31 January 2020 Value (£): 910,916
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Dec 2016 EPSRC Physical Sciences - December 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
We have recently demonstrated that crystalline layers of graphene can be grown on a solid surface using a newly installed high temperature growth system based on a technique called molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). This system was purchased in 2013 using equipment funding from the EPSRC Graphene Engineering Call and was successfully installed in 2014 and has since been used to demonstrate, for the first time in the world, that graphene which is strained, i.e. stretched, can be grown. It is thought that the stretching arises from the high temperatures used during growth - as the graphene cools after growth it tries to contract but cannot do so since it is pinned at several anchoring points on the surface on which it grows. The presence of strain was completely unexpected and results in many novel properties, for example the graphene can be punctured by a nanoscale mechanical stylus and snap back into a relaxed form - rather like a burst balloon. In addition, it is known that stretching graphene can modify strongly its electrical properties making it more compatible with technological applications such as the fabrication of transistors. In this proposal we are requesting support to build on our initial success so that we can explore the promise of this new type of graphene, to gain a much better understanding of how it grows, to investigate its novel physical properties and also to try and exploit strained graphene to make simple prototype devices.

Historically, the discovery of graphene and its remarkable electronic properties by Geim, Novoselov and colleagues in 2004 has provided scientists and engineers with a material system for revolutionising electronics and opto-electronics. Graphene has many remarkable properties - it is highly flexible, very strong and is an excellent electrical and thermal conductor. However, there are some limitations of current graphene research. Firstly, it cannot be used directly in many electronic applications because the flow of electrical current cannot be switched off in graphene, an essential requirement for the fabrication of a transistor, the central component of modern electronics. The reason for this may be traced back to the quantum mechanical properties of electrons within graphene, in particular the fact that for all energies there are available quantum mechanical states which electrons can occupy - in other words the material lacks an energy gap which is present in semiconductors. Since 2004 there has been an enormous effort worldwide to develop methods to control the electronic properties of graphene with a particular focus on introducing a band-gap to provide a semiconducting analogue material in which many of the other, highly desirable qualities of graphene, are retained. One of the most promising routes towards this goal is through the introduction of strain which occurs spontaneously in the MBE grown graphene.

In addition, a second drawback of the original graphene work was the reliance on exfoliation, or peeling off layers of graphene from a block of material. Although this has been extraordinarily successful in terms of investigating the fundamental properties of graphene, exfoliation has significant limitations in the technological exploitation of graphene. In particular, it is desirable to form layers over large areas. The approach adopted by the Nottingham group, to use MBE to grow graphene, makes use of a technique which is used widely in industry to grow other materials. However, before the work of the Nottingham group, attempts to grow graphene by MBE, in which growth is achieved by firing carbon atoms at a suitable surface, had been largely unsuccessful. Our system, which is unique worldwide, allows growth of graphene at much higher temperatures than have been used previously and we have already demonstrated that growth of high quality graphene is possible using this technique and offers exciting opportunities for new scientific and technological directions.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.nott.ac.uk