Graphene at Liquid Copper Catalysts: Atomic-Scale Agreement of Experimental and First-Principles Adsorption Height

H Gao and V Belova and F La Porta and JS Cingolani and M Andersen and M Saedi and OV Konovalov and M Jankowski and HH Heenen and IMN Groot and G Renaud and K Reuter, ADVANCED SCIENCE, 9 (2022).

DOI: 10.1002/advs.202204684

Liquid metal catalysts have recently attracted attention for synthesizing high-quality 2D materials facilitated via the catalysts' perfectly smooth surface. However, the microscopic catalytic processes occurring at the surface are still largely unclear because liquid metals escape the accessibility of traditional experimental and computational surface science approaches. Hence, numerous controversies are found regarding different applications, with graphene (Gr) growth on liquid copper (Cu) as a prominent prototype. In this work, novel in situ and in silico techniques are employed to achieve an atomic-level characterization of the graphene adsorption height above liquid Cu, reaching quantitative agreement within 0.1 angstrom between experiment and theory. The results are obtained via in situ synchrotron X-ray reflectivity (XRR) measurements over wide-range q-vectors and large- scale molecular dynamics simulations based on efficient machine-learning (ML) potentials trained to first-principles density functional theory (DFT) data. The computational insight is demonstrated to be robust against inherent DFT errors and reveals the nature of graphene binding to be highly comparable at liquid Cu and solid Cu(111). Transporting the predictive first-principles quality via ML potentials to the scales required for liquid metal catalysis thus provides a powerful approach to reach microscopic understanding, analogous to the established computational approaches for catalysis at solid surfaces.

Return to Publications page