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Detection of individual gas molecules adsorbed on graphene


The ultimate aim of any detection method is to achieve such a level of sensitivity that individual quanta of a measured entity can be resolved. In the case of chemical sensors, the quantum is one atom or molecule. Such resolution has so far been beyond the reach of any detection technique, including solid-state gas sensors hailed for their exceptional sensitivity1,2,3,4. The fundamental reason limiting the resolution of such sensors is fluctuations due to thermal motion of charges and defects5, which lead to intrinsic noise exceeding the sought-after signal from individual molecules, usually by many orders of magnitude. Here, we show that micrometre-size sensors made from graphene are capable of detecting individual events when a gas molecule attaches to or detaches from graphene’s surface. The adsorbed molecules change the local carrier concentration in graphene one by one electron, which leads to step-like changes in resistance. The achieved sensitivity is due to the fact that graphene is an exceptionally low-noise material electronically, which makes it a promising candidate not only for chemical detectors but also for other applications where local probes sensitive to external charge, magnetic field or mechanical strain are required.

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Figure 1: Sensitivity of graphene to chemical doping.
Figure 2: Constant mobility of charge carriers in graphene with increasing chemical doping.
Figure 3: Single-molecule detection.


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We thank A. MacDonald, S. Das Sarma and V. Falko for illuminating discussions. This work was supported by the EPSRC (UK) and the Royal Society. M.I.K. acknowledges financial support from FOM (Netherlands).

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Authors and Affiliations



K.S.N. designed the experiment and carried out both experimental work and data analysis, A.K.G. suggested the research direction and wrote the manuscript, F.S. and P.B. made graphene devices, S.V.M. and E.W.H. helped with experiments and their analysis and M.I.K. provided theory support. All authors participated in discussions of the research.

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Correspondence to K. S. Novoselov.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary information, figures S1-S3 and supplementary equations (PDF 293 kb)

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Schedin, F., Geim, A., Morozov, S. et al. Detection of individual gas molecules adsorbed on graphene. Nature Mater 6, 652–655 (2007).

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