Interface between graphene and liquid Cu from molecular dynamics simulations

JS Cingolani and M Deimel and S Kocher and C Scheurer and K Reuter and M Andersen, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 153, 074702 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0020126

Controllable synthesis of defect-free graphene is crucial for applications since the properties of graphene are highly sensitive to any deviations from the crystalline lattice. We focus here on the emerging use of liquid Cu catalysts, which have high potential for fast and efficient industrial-scale production of high-quality graphene. The interface between graphene and liquid Cu is studied using force field and ab initio molecular dynamics, revealing a complete or partial embedding of finite-sized flakes. By analyzing flakes of different sizes, we find that the size-dependence of the embedding can be rationalized based on the energy cost of embedding vs bending the graphene flake. The embedding itself is driven by the formation of covalent bonds between the under-coordinated edge C atoms and the liquid Cu surface, which is accompanied by a significant charge transfer. In contrast, the central flake atoms are located around or slightly above 3 angstrom from the liquid Cu surface and exhibit weak van der Waals- bonding and much lower charge transfer. The structural and electronic properties of the embedded state revealed in our work provide the atomic-scale information needed to develop effective models to explain the special growth observed in experiments where various interesting phenomena such as flake self-assembly and rotational alignment, high growth speeds, and low defect densities in the final graphene product have been observed.

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