A flexible and efficient method to fabricate nanopores in graphene has been developed. A focused, low-energy (5 keV) electron beam was used to locally activate etching of a graphene surface in a low pressure (0.3 Pa) N2 environment. Nanopores with sub-5 nm diameters were fabricated. The lattice structure of the graphene was observed to recover within 20 nm of the nanopore edge. Nanopore growth rates were investigated systematically. The effects of nitrogen pressure, electron beam dwell time and beam current were characterised in order to understand the etching mechanism and enable optimisation of the etching parameters. A model was developed which describes how the diffusion of ionised nitrogen affects the nanopore growth rate. Etching of other two-dimensional materials was attempted as demonstrated with MoS2. The lack of etching observed supports our model of a chemical reaction-based mechanism. The understanding of the etching mechanism will allow more materials to be etched by selection of an appropriate ion species.
Trinity College Dublin ->