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Loïc Huder

Link between structural and electronic properties of moirés of graphene studied by scanning tunneling microscopy

Published on 29 November 2017

Thesis presented November 29, 2017

Recent years have seen the emergence of two-dimensional crystalline layers, called 2D materials. Examples include the well-known graphene, insulating hexagonal boron nitride and superconducting niobium diselenide. The stacking of these 2D materials can be controlled to achieve desirable electronic properties under the form of van der Waals heterostructures. One of the simplest van der Waals heterostructures is the misaligned stacking of two graphene layers. Twisted graphene layers show a moiré pattern which can be viewed as a superperiodic potential that depends on the twist angle. The electronic properties of the twisted graphene layers are strongly linked to this moiré pattern.
The subject of the present thesis is the experimental study of the link between the structural and the electronic properties of twisted graphene layers by means of low-temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Spectroscopy (STM/STS).
While the effect of the twist angle has already been studied in great details, the modulation of the electronic properties by the deformation of the layers has been explored only recently. In the first part of this experimental work, a strain-driven modification of the electronic properties is probed in graphene layers with a twist angle of 1.26° grown on silicon carbide. The determined strain is found to be different in the two layers leading to a clear signature in the local electronic density of states of the moiré even at low strain magnitudes. Contrary to a strain applied in the two layers, this difference of strain between the layers (relative strain) modifies strongly the electronic band structure even at low strain magnitudes. While this relative strain is natively present, the second part of the work explores the effect of an applied strain in the layers. This is realized by approaching the STM tip to the graphene surface to trigger an interaction between the two. The resulting active modification of the density of states is shown to depend on the position on the moiré, leading to periodic instabilities at very low tip-sample distances.
In the third part of the work, another type of modification of the electronic properties is studied when superconductivity was induced in the graphene layers. This is done by growing graphene on superconducting tantalum carbide in a single-step annealing. The results show the formation of a high-quality tantalum carbide layer on which graphene layers form moiré patterns. The low-temperature density of states of these moirés show evidence of a superconducting proximity effect induced by the tantalum carbide.

Lattice deformations, Superconductivity, Scanning tunneling microscope, Twisted graphene layers

On-line thesis.