Observation of Room-Temperature Photoluminescence Blinking in Armchair-Edge Graphene Nanoribbons

By enhancing the photoluminescence from aligned seven-atom wide armchair-edge graphene nanoribbons using plasmonic nanoantennas, we are able to observe blinking of the emission. The on- and off-times of the blinking follow power law statistics. In time-resolved spectra, we observe spectral diffusion. These findings together are a strong indication of the emission originating from a single quantum emitter. The room temperature photoluminescence displays a narrow spectral width of less than 50 meV, which is significantly smaller than the previously observed ensemble line width of 0.8 eV. From spectral time traces, we identify three optical transitions, which are energetically situated below the lowest bulk excitonic state E11 of the nanoribbons. We attribute the emission to transitions involving Tamm states localized at the end of the nanoribbon. The photoluminescence from a single ribbon is strongly enhanced when its end is in the antenna hot spot resulting in the observed single molecule characteristics of the emission. Our findings illustrate the essential role of the end termination of graphene nanoribbons in light emission and allow us to construct a model for photoluminescence from nanoribbons.