Office 1.25
Phone: +41 61 267 37 03


2014 – PhD in Physics at University of Basel in the group of Prof. C. Schönenberger
2011-2013 M.Sc. in Nanosciences at the University of Basel in the group of Prof. D. Zumbühl.

Master thesis: “Hydrogen plasma etching of graphene: Towards crystallogrpahic zigzag edges”

2008-2011 B.Sc. in Nanosciences at the University of Basel


Graphene spintronics

Proximity spin-orbit in graphene through transition metal dichalcogenides

Superconducting tunnel spectroscopy

Graphene pn-junction physics

List of Publications

Please see Google Scholar for a full list.

  • Mobility enhancement in graphene by in situ reduction of random strain fluctuations
    L. Wang, P. Makk, S. Zihlmann, A. Baumgartner, D. I. Indolese, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, and C. Schönenberger.
    Phys. Rev. Lett.  124, 157701 (2020)
    [arXiv:1909.13484 ] [Open Data] [Abstract]

    Microscopic corrugations are ubiquitous in graphene even when placed on atomically flat substrates. These result in random local strain fluctuations limiting the carrier mobility of high quality hBN-supported graphene devices. We present transport measurements in hBN-encapsulated devices where such strain fluctuations can be in situ reduced by increasing the average uniaxial strain. When ∼0.2\% of uniaxial strain is applied to the graphene, an enhancement of the carrier mobility by ∼35\% is observed while the residual doping reduces by ∼39\%. We demonstrate a strong correlation between the mobility and the residual doping, from which we conclude that random local strain fluctuations are the dominant source of disorder limiting the mobility in these devices. Our findings are also supported by Raman spectroscopy measurements.

  • Out-of-plane corrugations in graphene based van der Waals heterostructures
    S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, M. K. Rehmann, L. Wang, M. Kedves, D.Indolese, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, D. M. Zumbühl, and C. Schönenberger.
    submitted (2020)
    [arXiv:2004.02690 ] [Abstract]

    Two dimensional materials are usually envisioned as flat, truly 2D layers. However out-of-plane corrugations are inevitably present in these materials. In this manuscript, we show that graphene flakes encapsulated between insulating crystals (hBN, WSe2), although having large mobilities, surprisingly contain out-of-plane corrugations. The height fluctuations of these corrugations are revealed using weak localization measurements in the presence of a static in-plane magnetic field. Due to the random out-of-plane corrugations, the in-plane magnetic field results in a random out-of-plane component to the local graphene plane, which leads to a substantial decrease of the phase coherence time. Atomic force microscope measurements also confirm a long range height modulation present in these crystals. Our results suggest that phase coherent transport experiments relying on purely in-plane magnetic fields in van der Waals heterostructures have to be taken with serious care.

  • In-situ strain tuning in hBN-encapsulated graphene electronic devices
    L. Wang, S. Zihlmann, A. Baumgartner, J. Overbeck, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, P. Makk, and C. Schönenberger.
    Nano Letters  19, 4097-4102 (2019)
    [arXiv:1904.06737 ] [Open Data] [Abstract]

    Using a simple setup to bend a flexible substrate, we demonstrate deterministic and reproducible in-situ strain tuning of graphene electronic devices. Central to this method is the full hBN encapsulation of graphene, which preserves the exceptional quality of pristine graphene for transport experiments. In addition, the on-substrate approach allows one to exploit strain effects in the full range of possible sample geometries and at the same time guarantees that changes in the gate capacitance remain negligible during the deformation process. We use Raman spectroscopy to spatially map the strain magnitude in devices with two different geometries and demonstrate the possibility to engineer a strain gradient, which is relevant for accessing the valley degree of freedom with pseudo-magnetic fields. Comparing the transport characteristics of a suspended device with those of an on-substrate device, we demonstrate that our new approach does not suffer from the ambiguities encountered in suspended devices

  • GHz nanomechanical resonator in an ultraclean suspended graphene p-n junction
    Minkyung Jung, P. Rickhaus, S. Zihlmann, A. Eichler, P. Makk, and C. Schönenberger.
    Nanoscale  11, 4355 (2019)
    [arXiv:1812.06412 ] [Abstract]

    We demonstrate high-frequency mechanical resonators in ballistic graphene p–n junctions. Fully suspended graphene devices with two bottom gates exhibit ballistic bipolar behavior after current annealing. We determine the graphene mass density and built-in tension for different current annealing steps by comparing the measured mechanical resonant response to a simplified membrane model. We consistently find that after the last annealing step the mass density compares well with the expected density of pure graphene. In a graphene membrane with high built-in tension, but still of macroscopic size with dimensions 3 × 1 micrometer^2, a record resonance frequency of 1.17 GHz is observed after the final current annealing step. We further compare the resonance response measured in the unipolar with the one in the bipolar regime. Remarkably, the resonant signals are strongly enhanced in the bipolar regime. This enhancement is caused in part by the Fabry-Pérot resonances that appear in the bipolar regime and possibly also by the photothermoelectric effect that can be very pronounced in graphene p–n junctions under microwave irradiation.

  • New generation of Moiré superlattices in doubly aligned hBN/graphene/hBN heterostructures
    L. Wang, S. Zihlmann, Ming-Hao Liu, P. Makk, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, A. Baumgartner, and C. Schönenberger.
    Nano Letters  19, 2371-2376 (2019)
    [arXiv:1812.10031 ] [Abstract]

    The specific rotational alignment of two-dimensional lattices results in a moiré superlattice with a larger period than the original lattices and allows one to engineer the electronic band structure of such materials. So far, transport signatures of such superlattices have been reported for graphene/hBN and graphene/graphene systems. Here we report moiré superlattices in fully hBN encapsulated graphene with both the top and the bottom hBN aligned to the graphene. In the graphene, two different moiré superlattices form with the top and the bottom hBN, respectively. The overlay of the two superlattices can result in a third superlattice with a period larger than the maximum period (\SI{14}{nm}) in the graphene/hBN system, which we explain in a simple model. This new type of band structure engineering allows one to artificially create an even wider spectrum of electronic properties in two-dimensional materials.

  • Non-equilibrium properties of graphene probed by superconducting tunnel spectroscopy
    S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, S. Castillas, J. Gramich, K. Thodkar, S. Caneva, R. Wang, S. Hofmann, and C. Schönenberger.
    Phys. Rev. B  99, 75419 (2019)
    [arXiv:1811.08746 ] [Abstract]

    We report on non-equilibrium properties of graphene probed by superconducting tunnel spectroscopy. A hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) tunnel barrier in combination with a superconducting Pb contact is used to extract the local energy distribution function of the quasiparticles in graphene samples in different transport regimes. In the cases where the energy distribution function resembles a Fermi-Dirac distribution, the local electron temperature can directly be accessed. This allows us to study the cooling mechanisms of hot electrons in graphene. In the case of long samples (device length L much larger than the electron-phonon scattering length le−ph), cooling through acoustic phonons is dominant. We find a cross-over from the dirty limit with a power law T3 at low temperature to the clean limit at higher temperatures with a power law T4 and a deformation potential of 13..3 eV. For shorter samples, where L is smaller than le−ph but larger than the electron-electron scattering length le−e, the well-known cooling through electron out-diffusion is found. Interestingly, we find strong indications of an enhanced Lorenz number in graphene. We also find evidence of a non-Fermi-Dirac distribution function, which is a result of non-interacting quasiparticles in very short samples

  • Wideband and on-chip excitation for dynamical spin injection into graphene
    D. I. Indolese, S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, C. Jünger, K. Thodkar, and C. Schönenberger.
    Phys. Rev. Appl.  10, 44053 (2018)
    [arXiv:1806.09356 ] [Abstract]

    Graphene is an ideal material for spin transport as very long spin relaxation times and lengths can be achieved even at room temperature. However, electrical spin injection is challenging due to the conductivity mismatch problem. Spin pumping driven by ferromagnetic resonance is a neat way to circumvent this problem as it produces a pure spin current in the absence of a charge current. Here, we show spin pumping into single layer graphene in micron scale devices. A broadband on-chip RF current line is used to bring micron scale permalloy (Ni80Fe20) pads to ferromagnetic resonance with a magnetic eld tunable resonance condition. At resonance, a spin current is emitted into graphene, which is detected by the inverse spin hall voltage in a close-by platinum electrode. Clear spin current signals are detected down to a power of a few milliwatts over a frequency range of 2 GHz to 8 GHz. This compact device scheme paves the way for more complex device structures and allows the investigation of novel materials.

  • Large spin relaxation anisotropy and valley-Zeeman spin-orbit coupling in WSe2/Gr/hBN heterostructures
    S. Zihlmann, A. W. Cummings, J. H. Garcia, M. Kedves, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, C. Schönenberger, and P. Makk.
    Phys. Rev. B  97, 75434 (2018)
    [arXiv:1712.05678 ] [Abstract]

    Large spin-orbital proximity effects have been predicted in graphene interfaced with a transition metal dichalcogenide layer. Whereas clear evidence for an enhanced spin-orbit coupling has been found at large carrier densities, the type of spin-orbit coupling and its relaxation mechanism remained unknown. We show for the first time an increased spin-orbit coupling close to the charge neutrality point in graphene, where topological states are expected to appear. Single layer graphene encapsulated between the transition metal dichalcogenide WSe2 and hBN is found to exhibit exceptional quality with mobilities as high as 100 000 cm2/Vs. At the same time clear weak anti-localization indicates strong spin-orbit coupling and a large spin relaxation anisotropy due to the presence of a dominating symmetric spin-orbit coupling is found. Doping dependent measurements show that the spin relaxation of the in-plane spins is largely dominated by a valley-Zeeman spin-orbit coupling and that the intrinsic spin-orbit coupling plays a minor role in spin relaxation. The strong spin-valley coupling opens new possibilities in exploring spin and valley degree of freedoms in graphene with the realization of new concepts in spin manipulation.

  • Spin transport in two-layer-CVD-hBN/graphene/hBN heterostructures
    M. Gurram, S. Omar, S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, Q. C. Li, Y. F. Zhang, C. Schönenberger, and B. J. van Wees.
    Phys. Rev. B  97, 45411 (2018)
    [arXiv:1712.00815 ] [Abstract]

    We study room-temperature spin transport in graphene devices encapsulated between a layer-by-layer-stacked two-layer-thick chemical vapor deposition (CVD) grown hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) tunnel barrier, and a few-layer-thick exfoliated-hBN substrate. We find mobilities and spin-relaxation times comparable to that of SiO2 substrate-based graphene devices, and we obtain a similar order of magnitude of spin relaxation rates for both the Elliott-Yafet and D’Yakonov-Perel’ mechanisms. The behavior of ferromagnet/two-layer-CVDhBN/ graphene/hBN contacts ranges from transparent to tunneling due to inhomogeneities in the CVD-hBN barriers. Surprisingly, we find both positive and negative spin polarizations for high-resistance two-layer-CVDhBN barrier contacts with respect to the low-resistance contacts. Furthermore, we find that the differential spininjection polarization of the high-resistance contacts can be modulated by dc bias from −0.3 to +0.3 V with no change in its sign, while its magnitude increases at higher negative bias. These features point to the distinctive spin-injection nature of the two-layer-CVD-hBN compared to the bilayer-exfoliated-hBN tunnel barriers.

  • Contactless Microwave Characterization of Encapsulated Graphene p-n Junctions
    V. Ranjan, S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, K. Watanabe, T. Taniguchi, and C. Schönenberger.
    Phys. Rev. Appl.  7(5), 54015 (2017)
    [arXiv:1702.02071 ] [Abstract]

    Accessing intrinsic properties of a graphene device can be hindered by the influence of contact electrodes. Here, we capacitively couple graphene devices to superconducting resonant circuits and observe clear changes in the resonance-frequency and -widths originating from the internal charge dynamics of graphene. This allows us to extract the density of states and charge relaxation resistance in graphene p-n junctions without the need of electrical contacts. The presented characterizations pave a fast, sensitive and non-invasive measurement of graphene nanocircuits.

  • Microwave Photodetection in an Ultraclean Suspended Bilayer Graphene p–n Junction
    M. Jung, P. Rickhaus, S. Zihlmann, and C. Schönenberger.
    Nano Letters  16(11), 6988 (2016)

    We explore the potential of bilayer graphene as a cryogenic microwave photodetector by studying the microwave absorption in fully suspended clean bilayer graphene p–n junctions in the frequency range of 1–5 GHz at a temperature of 8 K. We observe a distinct photocurrent signal if the device is gated into the p–n regime, while there is almost no signal for unipolar doping in either the n–n or p–p regimes. Most surprisingly, the photocurrent strongly peaks when one side of the junction is gated to the Dirac point (charge-neutrality point CNP), while the other remains in a highly doped state. This is different to previous results where optical radiation was used. We propose a new mechanism based on the phototermal effect explaining the large signal. It requires contact doping and a distinctly different transport mechanism on both sides: one side of graphene is ballistic and the other diffusive. By engineering partially diffusive and partially ballistic devices, the photocurrent can drastically be enhanced.

  • Role of hexagonal boron nitride in protecting ferromagnetic anostructures from oxidation
    S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, C. A. F. Vaz, and C. Schönenberger.
    2D Materials  3(1), 11008 (2016)
    [arXiv:1509.03087 ] [Abstract]

    Ferromagnetic contacts are widely used to inject spin polarized currents into non-magnetic materials such as semiconductors or 2-dimensional materials like graphene. In these systems, oxidation of the ferromagnetic materials poses an intrinsic limitation on device performance. Here we investigate the role of ex situ transferred chemical vapour deposited hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) as an oxidation barrier for nanostructured cobalt and permalloy electrodes. The chemical state of the ferromagnets was investigated using x-ray photoemission electron microscopy because of its high sensitivity and lateral resolution. We have compared the oxide thickness formed on ferromagnetic nanostructures covered by hBN to uncovered reference structures. Our results show that hBN reduces the oxidation rate of ferromagnetic nanostructures suggesting that it could be used as an ultra-thin protection layer in future spintronic devices.

  • Spin transport in fully hexagonal boron nitride encapsulated graphene
    M. Gurram, S. Omar, S. Zihlmann, P. Makk, C. Schönenberger, and B. J. van Wees.
    Physical Review B  93(11), 115441 (2016)
    [arXiv:1603.04357 ] [Abstract]

    We study fully hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) encapsulated graphene spin valve devices at room temperature. The device consists of a graphene channel encapsulated between two crystalline hBN flakes: thick-hBN flake as a bottom gate dielectric substrate which masks the charge impurities from Si_{O2}/Si substrate and single-layer thin-hBN flake as a tunnel barrier. Full encapsulation prevents the graphene from coming in contact with any polymer/chemical during the lithography and thus gives homogeneous charge and spin transport properties across different regions of the encapsulated graphene. Further, even with the multiple electrodes in-between the injection and the detection electrodes which are in conductivity mismatch regime, we observe spin transport over 12.5 $\mu$m-long distance under the thin-hBN encapsulated graphene channel, demonstrating the clean interface and the pinhole-free nature of the thin hBN as an efficient tunnel barrier.

  • Guiding of Electrons in a Few-Mode Ballistic Graphene Channel
    P. Rickhaus, M. -H. Liu, P. Makk, R. Maurand, S. Hess, S. Zihlmann, M. Weiss, K. Richter, and Schönenberger Richter (Uni. C. -. in cooperation with group Regensburg).
    Nano Letters  15(5819) (2015)
    [arXiv:1509.02653 ] [Abstract]

    In graphene, the extremely fast charge carriers can be controlled by electron-optical elements, such as waveguides, in which the transmissivity is tuned by the wavelength. In this work, charge carriers are guided in a suspended ballistic few-mode graphene channel, defined by electrostatic gating. By depleting the channel, a reduction of mode number and steps in the conductance are observed, until the channel is completely emptied. The measurements are supported by tight-binding transport calculations including the full electrostatics of the sample.