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Adhesion and dynamic nanotribology of graphene in polar and non-polar liquid environments studied with ultrasonic force microscopy

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We report the characterisation of exfoliated few layer graphene (FLG) flakes using a range of scanning probe techniques. We have examined FLG and its substrate material, SiO2, in air, polar liquid (water) and non-polar liquid (dodecane) environments. We present analysis of absolute adhesion and relative friction between SPM probe and FLGH and examination of surface and subsurface nanoscale structure. Adhesion is greater in ambient conditions, due to water meniscus formation at the probe sample interface, than continuum liquid coverage. Friction shows no velocity dependence and is consistently lower for FLG than SiO2. The presence and dynamics of sub-surface delaminations and surface point defects are observed at a range of quantified normal forces (0 – 75 nN).