Graphene, a single atomic layer of carbon connected by sp2 hybridized bonds, has attracted intense scientific interest since its recent discovery1. Much of the research on graphene has been directed towards exploration of its novel electronic properties, but the structural aspects of this model two-dimensional system are also of great interest and importance. In particular, microscopic corrugations have been observed on all suspended2 and supported3,4,5,6,7,8 graphene sheets studied so far. This rippling has been invoked to explain the thermodynamic stability of free-standing graphene sheets9. Many distinctive electronic10,11,12 and chemical13,14,15 properties of graphene have been attributed to the presence of ripples, which are also predicted to give rise to new physical phenomena16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26 that would be absent in a planar two-dimensional material. Direct experimental study of such novel ripple physics has, however, been hindered by the lack of flat graphene layers. Here we demonstrate the fabrication of graphene monolayers that are flat down to the atomic level. These samples are produced by deposition on the atomically flat terraces of cleaved mica surfaces. The apparent height variation in the graphene layers observed by high-resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM) is less than 25 picometres, indicating the suppression of any existing intrinsic ripples in graphene. The availability of such ultraflat samples will permit rigorous testing of the impact of ripples on various physical and chemical properties of graphene.
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We thank E. B. Newton and S. Li for their assistance in sample preparation and J. Shan, H. G. Yan and Z. Q. Li for discussions. This work was supported by grants from DARPA through the CERA programme (to T.F.H.), from the Nano Electronics Research Corporation (NERC) through the INDEX Center (to T.F.H.), and from the National Science Foundation (grant CHE-07-01483 to G.W.F.). Equipment and material support was provided by the US Department of Energy (grant DE-FG02-88-ER13937 to G.W.F.).
Author Contributions All of the authors contributed to the design of the experiment; C.H.L. and K.F.M. were responsible for the sample preparation, C.H.L. and L.L. characterized the samples by AFM imaging; C.H.L., L.L., and T.F.H. devised the method for and performed the data analysis; and C.H.L., G.W.F. and T.F.H. prepared the manuscript.
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Lui, C., Liu, L., Mak, K. et al. Ultraflat graphene. Nature 462, 339–341 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08569
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