Exploring synthetic approaches to non-alternant ring topologies in graphene nanostructures

The mechanical and electronic properties of graphene, an atomically thin layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, has spawned a variety of new applications in recent years, both as a pure and composite material. However, important areas remain uncovered. These include, for example, digital switches, for which graphene's lack of electronic bandgap is a poor limitation, or application areas that rely on magnetic properties. Theoretical modeling and initial synthetic successes show that specific graphene nanostructures may be suitable for these applications. 

The goal of the project is to fabricate graphene nanostructures with atomic precision and characterize them with respect to their electronic and magnetic properties. We use a combination of traditional synthesis in solution and new approaches of surface chemistry, which uses crystalline metal surfaces as catalysts for the final synthesis steps. The focus is on the fabrication of structures with non-hexagonal carbon motifs, such as pentagonal or heptagonal arrays, which are predicted to have small electronic bandgaps and magnetic properties. Scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopy are used to structurally and electronically characterize individual molecules synthesized at the surface with atomic resolution to find structures with optimized properties.