SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 59 , Issue 7 : 1080-1084(2016) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-016-6084-4

In-situ TEM study of the dynamic behavior of the graphene-metal interface evolution under Joule heating

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  • ReceivedMar 16, 2016
  • AcceptedMay 4, 2016
  • PublishedJun 20, 2016


The dynamic behavior of the interface between few layer graphene (FLG) and tungsten metal tips under Joule heating has been studied by in-situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) method. High-resolution and real-time observations show the tungsten tip ‘swallow’ carbon atoms of the FLG and ‘spit’ graphite shells at its surface. The tip was carbonized to tungsten carbide (WC, W2C and WCx) after this process. A carbon diffusion mechanism has been proposed based on the diffusion of carbon atoms through the tungsten tip and separation from the surface of the tip. After Joule heating, the initial FLG-metal mechanical contact was transformed to FLG-WCx-W contact, which results in significant improvement on electrical conductivity at the interface.


This work was supported by the Program from Ministry of Science and Technology (Grant Nos. 2012CB933003, 2013CB932600, 2013CB934500 & 2013YQ16055107), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 11474337, 221322304, 51172273 & 51421002), and Strategic Priority Research Program B of the Chinese Academy of Sciences of China (Grant No. XDB07030100).

Supporting Information

The supporting information is available online at tech.scichina.com and www.springerlink.com. The supporting materials are published as submitted, without typesetting or editing. The responsibility for scientific accuracy and content remains entirely with the authors.


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  • Figure 1

    Experimental setup and TEM image of the graphene-metal junction. (a) The in-situ TEM experiment setup; (b) corresponding image of (a).

  • Figure 2

    In-situ Joule heating-induced structural change of the W-FLG interface. (a), (b) The pristine W-FLG interface (a) and the electron diffraction pattern (EDP) of the W tip in (a). (c)–(e) The morphology (c), EDP (d) and high-resolution TEM image in the interface after Joule heating. (f) The corresponding I-V curves before (a) and after (c) the Joule heating-induced structural change.

  • Figure 3

    The structure information of the final tip after Joule heating in Supporting Movie 1. (b) The low magnification picture of the tip. (a), (d), (e) The corresponding EDP pattern of areas 1–3 in (b). (c) The lattice image of the surface of the tip. (f) A model showing the structure of the tip.

  • Figure 4

    The layer-by-layer growth process of graphite at the surface of the tip.

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