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Ultrastrong adhesion of graphene membranes


As mechanical structures enter the nanoscale regime, the influence of van der Waals forces increases. Graphene is attractive for nanomechanical systems1,2 because its Young's modulus and strength are both intrinsically high, but the mechanical behaviour of graphene is also strongly influenced by the van der Waals force3,4. For example, this force clamps graphene samples to substrates, and also holds together the individual graphene sheets in multilayer samples. Here we use a pressurized blister test to directly measure the adhesion energy of graphene sheets with a silicon oxide substrate. We find an adhesion energy of 0.45 ± 0.02 J m−2 for monolayer graphene and 0.31 ± 0.03 J m−2 for samples containing two to five graphene sheets. These values are larger than the adhesion energies measured in typical micromechanical structures and are comparable to solid–liquid adhesion energies5,6,7. We attribute this to the extreme flexibility of graphene, which allows it to conform to the topography of even the smoothest substrates, thus making its interaction with the substrate more liquid-like than solid-like.

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Figure 1: Pressurizing graphene membranes.
Figure 2: Delaminating graphene membranes.
Figure 3: Graphene/SiO2 adhesion energies.
Figure 4: Elastic constants and clamping of graphene membranes.


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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF, grant nos. 0900832 and 1054406), the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Membrane Science, Engineering and Technology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the DARPA Center on Nanoscale Science and Technology for Integrated Micro/Nano-Electromechanical Transducers (DARPA/SPAWAR, grant no. N66001-10-1-4007). Sample fabrication was performed at the University of Colorado node of the National Nanofabrication Users Network, funded by the NSF. The authors thank G. Acosta, L. Wang and X. Liu for help with fabrication and R. Raj for use of the Raman microscope.

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S.P.K. performed the experiments. S.P.K. and J.S.B. conceived and designed the experiments. N.G.B. and M.L.D. developed the theory and modelling. All authors interpreted the results and co-wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to J. Scott Bunch.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Koenig, S., Boddeti, N., Dunn, M. et al. Ultrastrong adhesion of graphene membranes. Nature Nanotech 6, 543–546 (2011).

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