The role of external defects in chemical sensing of graphene field-effect transistors

B. Kumar, K. Min, M. Bashirzadeh, A. Barati Farimani, M. H. Bae, D. Estrada, Y. D. Kim, P. Yasaei, Y. D. Park, E. Pop, N. R. Aluru, A. Salehi-Khojin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A fundamental understanding of chemical sensing mechanisms in graphene-based chemical field-effect transistors (chemFETs) is essential for the development of next generation chemical sensors. Here we explore the hidden sensing modalities responsible for tailoring the gas detection ability of pristine graphene sensors by exposing graphene chemFETs to electron donor and acceptor trace gas vapors. We uncover that the sensitivity (in terms of modulation in electrical conductivity) of pristine graphene chemFETs is not necessarily intrinsic to graphene, but rather it is facilitated by external defects in the insulating substrate, which can modulate the electronic properties of graphene. We disclose a mixing effect caused by partial overlap of the highest occupied molecular orbital (HOMO) and lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) of adsorbed gas molecules to explain graphene's ability to detect adsorbed molecules. Our results open a new design space, suggesting that control of external defects in supporting substrates can lead to tunable graphene chemical sensors, which could be developed without compromising the intrinsic electrical and structural properties of graphene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1962-1968
Number of pages7
JournalNano letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 8 2013


  • chemFETs
  • chemical sensors
  • defects
  • density functional theory (DFT)
  • Graphene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanical Engineering


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