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Exceptionally clean single-electron transistors from solutions of molecular graphene nanoribbons


Only single-electron transistors with a certain level of cleanliness, where all states can be properly accessed, can be used for quantum experiments. To reveal their exceptional properties, carbon nanomaterials need to be stripped down to a single element: graphene has been exfoliated into a single sheet, and carbon nanotubes can reveal their vibrational, spin and quantum coherence properties only after being suspended across trenches1,2,3. Molecular graphene nanoribbons4,5,6 now provide carbon nanostructures with single-atom precision but suffer from poor solubility, similar to carbon nanotubes. Here we demonstrate the massive enhancement of the solubility of graphene nanoribbons by edge functionalization, to yield ultra-clean transport devices with sharp single-electron features. Strong electron–vibron coupling leads to a prominent Franck–Condon blockade, and the atomic definition of the edges allows identifying the associated transverse bending mode. These results demonstrate how molecular graphene can yield exceptionally clean electronic devices directly from solution. The sharpness of the electronic features opens a path to the exploitation of spin and vibrational properties in atomically precise graphene nanostructures.

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Fig. 1: Synthetic design.
Fig. 2: Debundling of the molecular nanoribbons.
Fig. 3: Enhancement of the quantum transport.
Fig. 4: Electron–vibron coupling in nanoribbons with enhanced solubility.

Data availability

The data supporting the findings of this study are available within the Article and its Supplementary Information, and are deposited and available online within the Bodleian Library of Oxford. No custom code is used.


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We thank the European Union (ERC-CoG-773048-MMGNRs), the Royal Society (University Research Fellowship and grant), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/N017188/1-QuEEN), the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund (Keeley and Norwegian scholarships to Wadham College Oxford) and the Max Planck Gesellshaft (MPG) for financial support. We thank University of Norwich for the use of the atomic force microscopy instrument and Oxford-Advanced Research Computing (ARC) for computational time.


Open access funding provided by Max Planck Society.

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Authors and Affiliations



W.N., A.N., Y.M. and J.L. synthesized the nanoribbons and performed the photoluminescence measurements. J.N. and A.G. performed the atomic force microscopy measurements. A.L., P.G., A.G., C.S.L., J.M. and T.P. nanofabricated the devices. S.S., A.G., T.P., J.N. and A.L. performed the transport measurements. F.K. calculated the vibrations. S.S. and L.B. performed the data analysis and wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xinliang Feng or Lapo Bogani.

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Nature Materials thanks Hongjie Dai and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–20, Table 1 and Discussion.

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Niu, W., Sopp, S., Lodi, A. et al. Exceptionally clean single-electron transistors from solutions of molecular graphene nanoribbons. Nat. Mater. 22, 180–185 (2023).

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