ACS Nano

Edge Contacts to Atomically Precise Graphene Nanoribbons

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Bottom-up-synthesized graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) are an emerging class of designer quantum materials that possess superior properties, including atomically controlled uniformity and chemically tunable electronic properties. GNR-based devices are promising candidates for next-generation electronic, spintronic, and thermoelectric applications. However, due to their extremely small size, making electrical contact with GNRs remains a major challenge. Currently, the most commonly used methods are top metallic electrodes and bottom graphene electrodes, but for both, the contact resistance is expected to scale with overlap area. Here, we develop metallic edge contacts to contact nine-atom-wide armchair GNRs (9-AGNRs) after encapsulation in hexagonal boron-nitride (h-BN), resulting in ultrashort contact lengths. We find that charge transport in our devices occurs via two different mechanisms: at low temperatures (9 K), charges flow through single GNRs, resulting in quantum dot (QD) behavior with well-defined Coulomb diamonds (CDs), with addition energies in the range of 16 to 400 meV. For temperatures above 100 K, a combination of temperature-activated hopping and polaron-assisted tunneling takes over, with charges being able to flow through a network of 9-AGNRs across distances significantly exceeding the length of individual GNRs. At room temperature, our short-channel field-effect transistor devices exhibit on/off ratios as high as 3 × 105 with on-state current up to 50 nA at 0.2 V. Moreover, we find that the contact performance of our edge-contact devices is comparable to that of top/bottom contact geometries but with a significantly reduced footprint. Overall, our work demonstrates that 9-AGNRs can be contacted at their ends in ultra-short-channel FET devices while being encapsulated in h-BN.