Apparent rippling with honeycomb symmetry and tunable periodicity observed by scanning tunneling microscopy on suspended graphene

A Georgi and P Nemes-Incze and B Szafranek and D Neumaier and V Geringer and M Liebmann and M Morgenstern, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 94, 184302 (2016).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.94.184302

Suspended graphene is difficult to image by scanning probe microscopy due to the inherent van der Waals and dielectric forces exerted by the tip, which are not counteracted by a substrate. Here, we report scanning tunneling microscopy data of suspended monolayer graphene in constant- current mode, revealing a surprising honeycomb structure with amplitude of 50-200 pm and lattice constant of 10-40 nm. The apparent lattice constant is reduced by increasing the tunneling current I, but does not depend systematically on tunneling voltage V or scan speed v(scan). The honeycomb lattice of the rippling is aligned with the atomic structure observed on supported areas, while no atomic corrugation is found on suspended areas down to the resolution of about 3-4 pm. We rule out that the honeycomb structure is induced by the feedback loop using a changing vscan, that it is a simple enlargement effect of the atomic lattice, as well as models predicting frozen phonons or standing phonon waves induced by the tunneling current. Although we currently do not have a convincing explanation for the observed effect, we expect that our intriguing results will inspire further research related to suspended graphene.

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