Understanding how the mechanical behaviour of materials deviates at the nanoscale from the macroscopically established concepts is a key challenge of particular importance for graphene, given the complex interplay between its nanoscale morphology and electronic properties 1-5 . In this work, the (sub)nanometre-wavelength periodic rippling of suspended graphene nanomembranes has been realized by thermal strain engineering and investigated using scanning tunnelling microscopy. This allows us to explore the rippling of a crystalline membrane with wavelengths comparable to its lattice constant. The observed nanorippling mode violates the predictions of the continuum model 6 , and evidences the breakdown of the plate idealization of the graphene monolayer. Nevertheless, microscopic simulations based on a quantum mechanical description of the chemical binding accurately describe the observed rippling mode and elucidate the origin of the continuum model breakdown. Spatially resolved tunnelling spectroscopy measurements indicate a substantial influence of the nanoripples on the local electronic structure of graphene and reveal the formation of one-dimensional electronic superlattices.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The experimental work has been conducted within the framework of the Korean–Hungarian Joint Laboratory for Nanosciences through the Converging Research Center Program (2010K000980). L.T. acknowledges OTKA grant PD 91160 and the Bolyai fellowship and is grateful to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. P.N-I. and L.P.B. acknowledge OTKA grant K 101599. T.D. acknowledges NSF CAREER Grant CMMI-0747684.