Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)

Degree Level





Paul Thibado

Committee Member

Julio Gea-Banacloche

Second Committee Member

Surendra Singh

Third Committee Member

Huaxiang Fu

Fourth Committee Member

Hameed Naseem


Graphene, STM


Graphene was the first two-dimensional material ever discovered, and it exhibits many unusual phenomena important to both pure and applied physics. To ensure the purest electronic structure, or to study graphene's elastic properties, it is often suspended over holes or trenches in a substrate. The aim of the research presented in this dissertation was to develop methods for characterizing and manipulating freestanding graphene on the atomic scale using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Conventional microscopy and spectroscopy techniques must be carefully reconsidered to account for movement of the extremely flexible sample.

First, the acquisition of atomic-scale images of freestanding graphene using the STM and the ability to pull the graphene perpendicular to its plane by applying an electrostatic force with the STM tip are demonstrated. The atomic-scale images contained surprisingly large corrugations due to the electrostatic attractive force varying in registry with the local density of states. Meanwhile, a large range of control over the graphene height at a point was obtained by varying the tip bias voltage, and the application to strain engineering of graphene's so-called pseudomagnetic field is examined. Next, the effect of the tunneling current was investigated. With increasing current, the graphene sample moves away from the tip rather than toward it. It was determined that this must be due to local heating by the electric current, causing the graphene to contract because it has a negative coefficient of thermal expansion.

Finally, by imaging a very small area, the STM can monitor the height of one location over long time intervals. Results sometimes exhibit periodic behavior, with a frequency and amplitude that depend on the tunneling current. These fluctuations are interpreted as low-frequency flexural phonon modes within elasticity theory. All of these findings set the foundation for employing a STM in the study of freestanding graphene.