Scanning tunnelling microscopy of graphite‐adsorbed molecular species

J. S. Hubacek, R. T. Brockenbrough, G. Gammie, S. L. Skala, J. W. Lyding, J. L. Latten, J. R. Shapley

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A new variable‐temperature STM has been used to perform studies of the adsorption and ordering of simple polar molecules such as acetone and dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) on graphite. The primary objective of this work is to obtain fundamental information which can serve as a basis for studies of complex systems. Following exposure of graphite to acetone vapour, STM images show cloudy patches of acetone drifting across the surface, with individual molecules being indistinguishable. Following prolonged exposure, however, an ordered monolayer forms, having triangular symmetry and 2×2 commensurate periodicity relative to the substrate. Similar results are obtained for DMSO on graphite; however, the monolayer is more closely packed and probably incommensurate with the substrate. In a related effort, nitric acid is shown to be an effective chemical etch for creating steps in basal plane graphite. It is hoped that this, and related techniques, will enable the use of STM to study important chemical systems, such as treated fuel‐cell electrodes, which utilize non‐basal plane graphite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-227
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988


  • Graphite‐adsorbed species
  • acetone
  • dimethylsulphoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology

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