Detection of individual gas molecules adsorbed on graphene

Nat Mater. 2007 Sep;6(9):652-5. doi: 10.1038/nmat1967. Epub 2007 Jul 29.


The ultimate aim of any detection method is to achieve such a level of sensitivity that individual quanta of a measured entity can be resolved. In the case of chemical sensors, the quantum is one atom or molecule. Such resolution has so far been beyond the reach of any detection technique, including solid-state gas sensors hailed for their exceptional sensitivity. The fundamental reason limiting the resolution of such sensors is fluctuations due to thermal motion of charges and defects, which lead to intrinsic noise exceeding the sought-after signal from individual molecules, usually by many orders of magnitude. Here, we show that micrometre-size sensors made from graphene are capable of detecting individual events when a gas molecule attaches to or detaches from graphene's surface. The adsorbed molecules change the local carrier concentration in graphene one by one electron, which leads to step-like changes in resistance. The achieved sensitivity is due to the fact that graphene is an exceptionally low-noise material electronically, which makes it a promising candidate not only for chemical detectors but also for other applications where local probes sensitive to external charge, magnetic field or mechanical strain are required.