The rise of graphene. -
THE RISE OF GRAPHENE A.K. Geim and K.S. Novoselov Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology, University of Manchester, Oxford Road M13 9PL, United Kingdom Graphene is a rapidly rising star on the horizon of materials science and condensed matter physics. This strictly two-dimensional material exhibits exceptionally high crystal and electronic quality and, despite its short history, has already revealed a cornucopia of new physics and potential applications, which are briefly discussed here. Whereas one can be certain of the realness of applications only when commercial products appear, graphene no longer requires any further proof of its importance in terms of fundamental physics. Owing to its unusual electronic spectrum, graphene has led to the emergence of a new paradigm of ���relativistic��� condensed matter physics, where quantum relativistic phenomena, some of which are unobservable in high energy physics, can now be mimicked and tested in table-top experiments. More generally, graphene represents a conceptually new class of materials that are only one atom thick and, on this basis, offers new inroads into low-dimensional physics that has never ceased to surprise and continues to provide a fertile ground for applications. Graphene is the name given to a flat monolayer of carbon atoms tightly packed into a two-dimensional (2D) honeycomb lattice, and is a basic building block for graphitic materials of all other dimensionalities (Figure 1). It can be wrapped up into 0D fullerenes, rolled into 1D nanotubes or stacked into 3D graphite. Theoretically, graphene (or ���2D graphite���) has been studied for sixty years1-3 and widely used for describing properties of various carbon-based materials. Forty years later, it was realized that graphene also provides an excellent condensed-matter analogue of (2+1)-dimensional quantum electrodynamics4-6, which propelled graphene into a thriving theoretical toy model. On the other hand, although known as integral part of 3D materials, graphene was presumed not to exist in the free state, being described as an ���academic��� material5 and believed to be unstable with respect to the formation of curved structures such as soot, fullerenes and nanotubes. All of a sudden, the vintage model turned into reality, when free-standing graphene was unexpectedly found three years ago7,8 and, especially, when the follow-up experiments9,10 confirmed that its charge carriers were indeed massless Dirac fermions. So, the graphene ���gold rush��� has begun. MATERIALS THAT SHOULD NOT EXIST More than 70 years ago, Landau and Peierls argued that strictly two-dimensional (2D) crystals were thermodynamically unstable and could not exist11,12. Their theory pointed out that a divergent contribution of thermal fluctuations in low-dimensional crystal lattices should lead to such displacements of atoms that they become comparable to interatomic distances at any finite temperature13. The argument was later extended by Mermin14 and is strongly supported by a whole omnibus of experimental observations. Indeed, the melting temperature of thin films rapidly decreases with decreasing thickness, and they become unstable (segregate into islands or decompose) at a thickness of, typically, dozens of atomic layers15,16. For this reason, atomic monolayers have so far been known only as an integral part of larger 3D structures, usually grown epitaxially on top of monocrystals with matching crystal lattices15,16. Without such a 3D base, 2D materials were presumed not to exist until 2004, when the common wisdom was flaunted by the experimental discovery of graphene7 and other free-standing 2D atomic crystals (for example, single-layer boron nitride and half-layer BSCCO)8. These crystals could be obtained on top of non-crystalline substrates8-10, in liquid suspension7,17 and as suspended membranes18. Importantly, the 2D crystals were found not only to be continuous but to exhibit high crystal quality7-10,17,18. The latter is most obvious for the case of graphene, in which charge carriers can travel thousands interatomic distances without scattering7-10. With the benefit of hindsight, the existence of such one-atom-thick crystals can be reconciled with theory. Indeed, it can be argued that the obtained 2D crystallites are quenched in a metastable state because they are extracted from 3D materials, whereas their small size (1mm) and strong interatomic bonds assure that thermal fluctuations cannot lead to the generation of dislocations or other crystal defects even at elevated temperature13,14.
2 Figure 1. Mother of all graphitic forms. Graphene is a 2D building material for carbon materials of all other dimensionalities. It can be wrapped up into 0D buckyballs, rolled into 1D nanotubes or stacked into 3D graphite. A complementary viewpoint is that the extracted 2D crystals become intrinsically stable by gentle crumpling in the third dimension on a lateral scale of ���10nm18,19. Such 3D warping observed experimentally18 leads to a gain in elastic energy but suppresses thermal vibrations (anomalously large in 2D), which above a certain temperature can minimize the total free energy19. BRIEF HISTORY OF GRAPHENE Before reviewing the earlier work on graphene, it is useful to define what 2D crystals are. Obviously, a single atomic plane is a 2D crystal, whereas 100 layers should be considered as a thin film of a 3D material. But how many layers are needed to make a 3D structure? For the case of graphene, the situation has recently become reasonably clear. It was shown that the electronic structure rapidly evolves with the number of layers, approaching the 3D limit of graphite already at 10 layers20. Moreover, only graphene and, to a good approximation, its bilayer have simple electronic spectra: they are both zero-gap semiconductors (can also be referred to as zero-overlap semimetals) with one type of electrons and one type of holes. For 3 and more layers, the spectra become increasingly complicated: Several charge carriers appear7,21, and the conduction and valence bands start notably overlapping7,20. This allows one to distinguish between single-, double- and few- (3 to 10) layer graphene as three different types of 2D crystals (���graphenes���). Thicker structures should be considered, to all intents and purposes, as thin films of graphite. From the experimental point of view, such a definition is also sensible. The screening length in graphite is only ���5�� (that is, less than 2 layers in thickness)21 and, hence, one must differentiate between the surface and the bulk even for films as thin as 5 layers.21,22 Earlier attempts to isolate graphene concentrated on chemical exfoliation. To this end, bulk graphite was first intercalated (to stage I)23 so that graphene planes became separated by layers of intervening atoms or molecules.