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Nanoscale Joule heating, Peltier cooling and current crowding at graphene–metal contacts


The performance and scaling of graphene-based electronics1 is limited by the quality of contacts between the graphene and metal electrodes2,3,4. However, the nature of graphene–metal contacts remains incompletely understood. Here, we use atomic force microscopy to measure the temperature distributions at the contacts of working graphene transistors with a spatial resolution of 10 nm (refs 5, 6, 7, 8), allowing us to identify the presence of Joule heating9,10,11, current crowding12,13,14,15,16 and thermoelectric heating and cooling17. Comparison with simulation enables extraction of the contact resistivity (150–200 Ω µm2) and transfer length (0.2–0.5 µm) in our devices; these generally limit performance and must be minimized. Our data indicate that thermoelectric effects account for up to one-third of the contact temperature changes, and that current crowding accounts for most of the remainder. Modelling predicts that the role of current crowding will diminish and the role of thermoelectric effects will increase as contacts improve.

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Figure 1: Device layout.
Figure 2: Measured and predicted contact heating and cooling.
Figure 3: Relative contribution of contact effects.
Figure 4: Contact temperature under varying conditions.


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This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research MURI FA9550-08-1-0407, Office of Naval Research grants N00014-07-1-0767, N00014-09-1-0180 and N00014-10-1-0061, and the Air Force Young Investigator Program (E.P.).

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K.L.G. performed measurements and simulations. M-H.B. fabricated devices and assisted with simulations. E.P. implemented the computational model and physical interpretation, with help from F.L., while E.P. and W.P.K. conceived the experiments. All authors discussed the results. K.L.G., E.P. and W.P.K. co-wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Eric Pop or William P. King.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Grosse, K., Bae, MH., Lian, F. et al. Nanoscale Joule heating, Peltier cooling and current crowding at graphene–metal contacts. Nature Nanotech 6, 287–290 (2011).

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