From Growth Surface to Device Interface: Preserving Metallic Fe under Monolayer Hexagonal Boron Nitride

03 Oct 2017

We investigate the interfacial chemistry between Fe catalyst foils and monolayer hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) following chemical vapour deposition and during subsequent atmospheric exposure, using scanning electron microscopy, X-ray photoemission spectroscopy, and scanning photoelectron microscopy. We show that regions of the Fe surface covered by h-BN remain in a reduced state during exposure to moist air for ~40 hours at room temperature. This protection is attributed to the strong interfacial interaction between h-BN and Fe, which prevents the rapid intercalation of oxidizing species. Local Fe oxidation is observed on bare Fe regions and close to defects in the h-BN film (e.g. domain boundaries, wrinkles, and edges), which over the longer-term provide pathways for slow bulk oxidation of the Fe. We further confirm that the interface between h-BN and reduced Fe can be recovered by vacuum annealing at ~600 °C, although this is accompanied by the creation of defects within the h-BN film. We discuss the importance of these findings in the context of integrated manufacturing and transfer-free device integration of h-BN, particularly for technologically important applications where h-BN has potential as a tunnel barrier such as magnetic tunnel junctions.