Research interest in graphene, a two-dimensional crystal consisting of a single atomic plane of carbon atoms, has been driven by its extraordinary properties, including charge carriers that mimic ultra-relativistic elementary particles. Moreover, graphene exhibits ballistic electron transport on the submicrometre scale, even at room temperature, which has allowed the demonstration of graphene-based field-effect transistors and the observation of a room-temperature quantum Hall effect. Here we confirm the presence of free-standing, single-layer graphene with directly interpretable atomic-resolution imaging combined with the spatially resolved study of both the π → π* transition and the π + σ plasmon. We also present atomic-scale observations of the morphology of free-standing graphene and explore the role of microstructural peculiarities that affect the stability of the sheets. We also follow the evolution and interaction of point defects and suggest a mechanism by which they form ring defects.
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The authors wish to thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for SuperSTEM funding under grant EP/D040396/1.
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Gass, M., Bangert, U., Bleloch, A. et al. Free-standing graphene at atomic resolution. Nature Nanotech 3, 676–681 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2008.280