Direct synthesis of thin-film carbon nanomaterials on oxide-coated silicon substrates provides a viable pathway for building a dense array of miniaturized (micron-scale) electrochemical sensors with high performance. However, material synthesis generally involves many parameters, making material engineering based on trial and error highly inefficient. Here, we report a two-pronged strategy for producing engineered thin-film carbon nanomaterials that have a nano-graphitic structure. First, we introduce a variant of the metal-induced graphitization technique that generates micron-scale islands of nano-graphitic carbon materials directly on oxide-coated silicon substrates. A novel feature of our material synthesis is that, through substrate engineering, the orientation of graphitic planes within the film aligns preferentially with the silicon substrate. This feature allows us to use the Raman spectroscopy for quantifying structural properties of the sensor surface, where the electrochemical processes occur. Second, we find phenomenological models for predicting the amplitudes of the redox current and the sensor capacitance from the material structure, quantified by Raman. Our results indicate that the key to achieving high-performance micro-sensors from nano-graphitic carbon is to increase both the density of point defects and the size of the graphitic crystallites. Our study offers a viable strategy for building planar electrochemical micro-sensors with high-performance.
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