Direct in situ observations of single Fe atom catalytic processes and anomalous diffusion at graphene edges

J Zhao and QM Deng and SM Avdoshenko and L Fu and J Eckert and MH Ruemmeli, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 111, 15641-15646 (2014).

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1412962111

Single-atom catalysts are of great interest because of their high efficiency. In the case of chemically deposited sp(2) carbon, the implementation of a single transition metal atom for growth can provide crucial insight into the formation mechanisms of graphene and carbon nanotubes. This knowledge is particularly important if we are to overcome fabrication difficulties in these materials and fully take advantage of their distinct band structures and physical properties. In this work, we present atomically resolved transmission EM in situ investigations of single Fe atoms at graphene edges. Our in situ observations show individual iron atoms diffusing along an edge either removing or adding carbon atoms (viz., catalytic action). The experimental observations of the catalytic behavior of a single Fe atom are in excellent agreement with supporting theoretical studies. In addition, the kinetics of Fe atoms at graphene edges are shown to exhibit anomalous diffusion, which again, is in agreement with our theoretical investigations.

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