Sublattice Symmetry Breaking and Kondo-Effect Enhancement in Strained Graphene

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© 2019 American Physical Society. Kondo physics in doped monolayer graphene is predicted to exhibit unusual features due to the linear vanishing of the pristine material's density of states at the Dirac point. Despite several attempts, conclusive experimental observation of the phenomenon remains elusive. One likely obstacle to identification is a very small Kondo temperature scale TK in situations where the chemical potential lies near the Dirac point. We propose tailored mechanical deformations of monolayer graphene as a means of revealing unique fingerprints of the Kondo effect. Inhomogeneous strains are known to produce specific alternating changes in the local density of states (LDOS) away from the Dirac point that signal sublattice symmetry-breaking effects. Small LDOS changes can be amplified in an exponential increase or decrease of TK for magnetic impurities attached at different locations. We illustrate this behavior in two deformation geometries: a circular "bubble" and a long fold, both described by Gaussian displacement profiles. We calculate the LDOS changes for modest strains and analyze the relevant Anderson impurity model describing a magnetic atom adsorbed in either a "top-site" or a "hollow-site" configuration. Numerical renormalization-group solutions of the impurity model suggest that higher expected TK values, combined with distinctive spatial patterns under variation of the point of graphene attachment, make the top-site configuration the more promising for experimental observation of signatures of the Kondo effect. The strong strain sensitivity of TK may lift top-site Kondo physics into the range experimentally accessible using local probes such as scanning tunneling microscopy.