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Toai Le Quang

Low-temperature scanning tunneling specstroscopy of epitaxial graphene grown on SiC

Published on 18 March 2016

Thesis presented March 18, 2016

Epitaxial graphene on carbon-terminated face (C-face) of SiC substrates consists of graphene layers rotated from each other. This rotation of layers grants this material single-layer like properties, such as a linear dispersion band structure and a ballistic transport. As discussed in chapter 2, the full-wafer size and the insulating SiC substrate are two of many advantages of graphene films grown on SiC compared to those prepared differently (exfoliation method and chemical vapor deposition method). These two advantages allow experimentalists to perform scanning tunneling microscopic (STM) experiments and to study graphene properties easily. In this PhD work, we grew graphene on C-face of SiC substrates to investigate the induced superconducting proximity effect in ballistic regime. The physics of this phenomenon is explained in chapter 3 as the formation of time-reversed pairs of electrons and holes. Concerning the superconducting materials, we relied on vanadium and niobium carbide to induce the proximity effect. These two approaches are discussed in detail in chapter 3 (for V) and chapter 4 (for NbC). STM characterizations performed on fabricated samples show a superconducting gap in V and a part of the NbC surface, but no induced gap in graphene. Several possible reasons, like a poor interface between superconductors and graphene, the inability of the STM to reach the true graphene-superconductor interface, and the degradation of the surface of NbC, were suggested and discussed. However, our high-quality epitaxial NbC films meet the requirements for hot-electron bolometers. Besides their single-layer like properties, the rotation of layers also leads to tunable van Hove singularities and the localization of states, which are thoroughly discussed in chapter 5 and 6. Once one of these singularities stays at the Fermi level, graphene is predicted to gain intrinsic superconductivity and magnetic properties. This condition can be achieved by reducing the rotation angle towards zero, as these singularities converge to the Dirac point or the Fermi level for undoped graphene. In addition to the intrinsic superconductivity, the localization of states also appears for layers rotated with a small angle, as observed in several STM experiments. Experimentally, we found regions in rotated layers, which appear as periodic Moiré patterns in our STM images. The rotation angles were estimated from the Fast Fourier Transform of the recorded STM images. Comparing our experimental results with tight-binding calculations for disorder-free layers rotated with the same angles leads to a qualitatively good agreement for the positions of van Hove peaks. However, the appearance of new peaks in proximity to the Dirac point for layers rotated with θ=1.5º and a spatial evolution of spectroscopic features for the small rotation angles cannot be explained by the calculations for disorder-free layers. In order to explain these two phenomena, we considered the influence of disorder. This indeed improved the agreement between theoretical and experimental results. But, since no electronic disorder could be evidenced from our STM images, other explanations, like strain, need to be considered too.

Van Hove singularities, SiC, Epitaxy graphene, Superconducting graphene, Scanning tunneling spectroscopy

On-line thesis.