Dosed carbon precipitation and graphene layer number control on nickel micro-electromechanical systems surfaces

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In this paper, we report on the in situ synthesis of graphene layers by means of chemical vapor deposition (CVD), directly on nickel micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) surfaces. We have developed MEMS structures of which the temperature can be increased locally by Joule heating while in a methane environment. For our MEMS structures, the thermal time constant is 28 μs. As a result, we have control over the carbon precipitation time, thereby governing how many graphene layers are formed. Bi-layer to multi-layer graphene was observed using micro-Raman spectroscopy, but not single-layer graphene, as it gives no Raman signal when coupled on a nickel surface. The corresponding precipitation control theory is also presented in this paper, in which we relate the out-diffusion of carbon atoms from the grains of the nickel structure to the resulting number of graphene layers. Our method provides regulated carbon segregation from nickel and allows a prescribed number of graphene layers to form by tuning the precipitation time. In this way, we enable the direct in situ synthesis of graphene locally on the top and sidewalls of nickel MEMS structures, so that e.g. such graphene-coated MEMS surfaces can contribute towards a promising solution against friction and wear for MEMS devices with sliding components.