Improving AFM Probe Performance with a Coat of Graphene

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Professor James Gimzewski and co-workers have demonstrated that graphene can be grown in prepatterned copper-coated substrates and applied to the production of MEMS devices, such as atomic force microscope (AFM) probes.

This research was published in ACS Nano on April 7, 2013 and was featured on Nanowerk on May 6, 2013.

Although previous researchers have found that free-standing 3D graphene-based macroscopic structures can be formed, Gimzewski’s discovery that graphene layers can be grown on prepatterned substrates represents an advance in current research. Gimzewski’s team also demonstrated that the addition of graphene to the AFM probes increases their conductivity and longevity. According to Gimzewski, “Graphene-coated AFM probes would allow studies on friction, adhesion, conductivity, etc. using graphene as a probing material and down at the nanoscale.”

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Abstract & Graphic from ACS NANO: We explore the feasibility of growing a continuous layer of graphene in prepatterned substrates, like an engineered silicon wafer, and we apply this as a mold for the fabrication of AFM probes. This fabrication method proves the fabrication of SU-8 devices coated with graphene in a full-wafer parallel technology and with high yield. It also demonstrates that graphene coating enhances the functionality of SU-8 probes, turning them conductive and more resistant to wear. Furthermore, it opens new experimental possibilities such as studying graphene–graphene interaction at the nanoscale with the precision of an AFM or the exploration of properties in nonplanar graphene layers.  

The ACS Nano article can be read here.

The Nanowerk article can be read here.