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TI perfects graphene growth methods

Posted: 08 Mar 2011  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:graphene monolayers  growing grapheme  carbon-based semiconductors 

Texas Instruments Inc. is refining the process of growing graphene sheets to urge the development of carbon-based semiconductors. The company is keenly exploring a technique to grow graphene monolayers in hopes that it will facilitate the design of faster, smaller and lower-power electronics based on carbon instead of silicon.

"This research is teaching us a lot on fundamental mechanisms of graphene growth," said TI fellow Luigi Colombo. "We believe that the results of this work will lead scientists and engineers to further increase the size of the single crystal graphene and also improve the electrical characteristics of the material."

TI recently demonstrated growing large-grain graphene crystals—up to half a millimeter in diameter—in collaboration with IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, the Nanoelectronic Research Initiative (NRI) and the University of Texas. Using low-pressure chemical vapor deposition inside copper-foil enclosures, with methane as a precursor, the resulting graphene films were then transferred to doped single-crystal silicon and silicon-on-insulator substrates where their electrical characteristics were tested. The team is also pursuing ways of growing graphene directly on dielectric substrates.

"Growth on other substrates, preferably dielectrics or metals more stable than copper, are also being investigated," said Colombo.

Large-grain crystals of graphene start as perfect hexagons but grow more quickly at their tips (rather than the sides of the hexagon) resulting in snowflake-like fractal islands.

For several years now, TI has been quietly pursuing graphene growth methods, previously reporting surface nucleation followed by a two-dimensional growth process on copper substrates with CVD. However, the domains were only 10 to 20 microns, 30 times smaller than the half-millimeter (500 micron) domains on which TI is now reporting.

Using low-energy electron microscopy, the research team was able to confirm that the films were relatively uniform single-crystal graphene monolayers. Using Raman spectroscopy, the researchers were able to confirm an electron mobility of 4,000cm2/Vs square centimeters per volt second—compared to 1,400cm2/Vs for silicon and 8,500cm2/Vs for GaAs. Theoretically, graphene can achieve electron mobilities of 10,000cm2/Vs to 100,000cm2/Vs.

"4000 [cm2/Vs] is reasonably high, but not as high as the highest value possible for exfoliated films, so we still have some improvements to make in our process," said Colombo. "But we have high hopes for these large-domain films."

The large-domain graphene growth was promoted inside the copper-foil cage at a relatively high temperature over 1,035°C. After processing the films, FETs were fabricated by transferring the films to highly doped silicon substrates, which served as the back-gate contact, with source and drain electrodes made from nickel. Electron mobility was inferred from measuring resistance as a function of back-gate voltage.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and Semiconductor Research Corp.'s NRI at the SouthWest Academy of Nanoelectronics.

- R. Colin Johnson
  EE Times





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