Ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations are employed to investigate the chemical mechanism underlying the Ni-catalyzed transformation of amorphous carbon (a-C) into graphene in the rapid thermal processing (RTP) experiment to directly grow graphene on various dielectric surfaces via the evaporation of surplus Ni and C at 1100 °C (below the melting point of bulk Ni). It is found that the a-C-to-graphene transformation entails the metal-induced crystallization and layer exchange mechanism, rather than the conventional dissolution/precipitation mechanism typically involved in Ni-catalyzed chemical vapor deposition (CVD) growth of graphene. The multi-layer graphene can be tuned by changing the relative thicknesses of deposited a-C and Ni thin films. Our AIMD simulations suggest that the easy evaporation of surplus Ni with excess C is likely attributed to the formation of a viscous-liquid-like Ni-C solution within the temperature range of 900-1800 K and to the faster diffusion of C atoms than that of Ni atoms above 600 K. Even at room temperature, sp3-C atoms in a-C are quickly converted to sp2-C atoms in the course of the simulation, and the graphitic C formation can occur at low temperature. When the temperature is as high as 1200 K, the grown graphitic structures reversely dissolve into Ni. Because the rate of temperature increase is considerably faster in the AIMD simulations than in realistic experiments, defects in the grown graphitic structures are kinetically trapped. In this kinetic growth stage, the carbon structures grown from sp3-carbon or from sp2-carbon exhibit marked differences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Materials Science