Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Substrate-induced bandgap opening in epitaxial graphene

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 01 November 2007


Graphene has shown great application potential as the host material for next-generation electronic devices. However, despite its intriguing properties, one of the biggest hurdles for graphene to be useful as an electronic material is the lack of an energy gap in its electronic spectra. This, for example, prevents the use of graphene in making transistors. Although several proposals have been made to open a gap in graphene’s electronic spectra, they all require complex engineering of the graphene layer. Here, we show that when graphene is epitaxially grown on SiC substrate, a gap of ≈0.26 eV is produced. This gap decreases as the sample thickness increases and eventually approaches zero when the number of layers exceeds four. We propose that the origin of this gap is the breaking of sublattice symmetry owing to the graphene–substrate interaction. We believe that our results highlight a promising direction for bandgap engineering of graphene.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Observation of the gap opening in single-layer graphene at the K point.
Figure 2: Decrease of the gap size as the sample becomes thicker.
Figure 3: Thickness dependence of ED and Δ.
Figure 4: Breaking of the six-fold symmetry in the intensity map near ED.


  1. Novoselov, K. S. et al. Electric field effect in atomically thin carbon films. Science 206, 666–669 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Novoselov, K. S. et al. Two-dimensional gas of Dirac fermions in graphene. Nature 438, 197–200 (2005).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Zhang, Y. B., Tan, Y.-W., Stormer, H. L. & Kim, P. Experimental observation of the quantum Hall effect and Berry’s phase in graphene. Nature 438, 201–204 (2005).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Berger, C. et al. Electronic confinement and coherence in patterned epitaxial graphene. Science 312, 1191–1196 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Manes, J. L., Guinea, F. & Vozmediano, A. H. Existence and topological stability of Fermi points in multilayered graphene. Phys. Rev. B 75, 155424 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Trauzettel, B., Bulaev, D. V., Loss, D. & Burkard, G. Spin qubits in graphene quantum dots. Nature Phys. 3, 192–196 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Nakada, K., Fujita, M., Dresselhaus, G. & Dresselhaus, M. S. Edge state in graphene ribbons: Nanometer size effect and edge shape dependence. Phys. Rev. B 54, 17954–17961 (1996).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Brey, L. & Fertig, H. A. Electronic states of graphene nanoribbons studied with the Dirac equation. Phys. Rev. B 73, 235411 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Nilsson, J., Castro Neto, A. H., Guinea, F. & Peres, N. M. R. Transmission through a biased graphene bilayer barrier. Preprint at <> (2006).

  10. Rollings, E. et al. Synthesis and characterization of atomically-thin graphite films on a silicon carbide substrate. J. Phys. Chem. Solids 67, 2172–2177 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Calandra, M. & Mauri, F. Electron-phonon coupling and electron self-energy in electron-doped graphene: calculation of angular resolved photoemission data. Preprint at <> (2007).

  12. Bostwick, A., Ohta, T., Seyller, T., Horn, K. & Rotenberg, E. Quasiparticle dynamics in graphene. Nature Phys. 3, 36–40 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Zhou, S. Y. et al. First direct observation of Dirac fermions in graphite. Nature Phys. 2, 595–599 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Zhou, S. Y., Gweon, G.-H. & Lanzara, A. Low energy excitations in graphite: The role of dimensionality and lattice defects. Ann. Phys. 321, 1730–1746 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Berger, C. et al. Ultrathin epitaxial graphite: 2D electron gas properties and a route toward graphene-based nanoelectronics. J. Phys. Chem. B 108, 19912–19916 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. McClure, J. M. Band structure of graphite and de Haas-van Alphen effect. Phys. Rev. 108, 612–618 (1957).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Dresselhaus, M. S. & Dresselhaus, G. Intercalation compounds of graphite. Adv. Phys. 51, 1–186 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Guinea, F. Charge distribution and screening in layered graphene systems. Phys. Rev. B 75, 235433 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Castro, E. V. et al. Biased bilayer graphene: Semiconductor with a gap tunable by electric field effect. Preprint at <> (2006).

  20. McCann, E. & Fal’ko, V. I. Landau-level degeneracy and quantum Hall effect in a graphite bilayer. Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 086805 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Ohta, T., Bostwick, A., Seyller, T., Horn, K. & Rotenberg, E. Controlling the electronic structure of bilayer graphene. Science 313, 951–954 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Tsai, M.-H., Change, C. S., Dow, J. D. & Tsong, I. S. T. Electronic contributions to scanning-tunneling-microscopy images of an annealed β-SiC(111) surface. Phys. Rev. B 45, 1327–1332 (1992).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Mallet, P. et al. Electron states of mono- and bilayer graphene on SiC probed by STM. Preprint at <> (2007).

  24. Rutter, G. M. et al. Scattering and interference in epitaxial graphene. Science 317, 219–222 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Brar, V. et al. Scanning tunneling spectroscopy of inhomogeneous electronic structure in monolayer and bilayer graphene on SiC. Preprint at <> (2007).

  26. Rutter, G. et al. APS March meeting, W29.00013 (2007).

  27. Hembacher, S., Giessibl, F. J., Mannhart, J. & Quate, C. F. Revealing the hidden atom in graphite by low-temperature atomic force microscopy. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 12539–12542 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Varchon, F. et al. Electronic structure of epitaxial graphene layers on SiC: Effect of the substrate. Preprint at <> (2007).

  29. Emtsev, K. V. et al. Initial stages of the graphite–SiC(0001) interface formation studied by photoelectron spectroscopy. Mater. Sci. Forum 556–557, 525 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Shirley, E. L., Terminello, L. J., Santoni, A. & Himpsel, F. J. Brillouin-zone-selection effects in graphite photoelectron angular distributions. Phys. Rev. B 51, 13614–13622 (1995).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank A. Geim and A. H. MacDonald for useful discussions and J. Graf for experimental assistance. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation through Grant No. DMR03-49361, the Director, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DEAC03-76SF00098 and by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under the Department of Energy Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. A.H.C.N. was supported through NSF grant DMR-0343790. S.Y.Z. thanks the Advanced Light Source Fellowship for financial support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Lanzara.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary information and figures S1-S3 (PDF 514 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Zhou, S., Gweon, GH., Fedorov, A. et al. Substrate-induced bandgap opening in epitaxial graphene. Nature Mater 6, 770–775 (2007).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing