Theses Doctoral

Single Molecule Junction Conductance and Binding Geometry

Kamenetska, Maria

This Thesis addresses the fundamental problem of controlling transport through a metal-organic interface by studying electronic and mechanical properties of single organic molecule-metal junctions. Using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) we image, probe energy-level alignment and perform STM-based break junction (BJ) measurements on molecules bound to a gold surface. Using Scanning Tunneling Microscope-based break-junction (STM-BJ) techniques, we explore the effect of binding geometry on single-molecule conductance by varying the structure of the molecules, metal-molecule binding chemistry and by applying sub-nanometer manipulation control to the junction. These experiments are performed both in ambient conditions and in ultra high vacuum (UHV) at cryogenic temperatures.

First, using STM imaging and scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS) measurements we explore binding configurations and electronic properties of an amine-terminated benzene derivative on gold. We find that details of metal-molecule binding affect energy-level alignment at the interface. Next, using the STM-BJ technique, we form and rupture metal-molecule-metal junctions ~104 times to obtain conductance-vs-extension curves and extract most likely conductance values for each molecule. With these measurements, we demonstrated that the control of junction conductance is possible through a choice of metal-molecule binding chemistry and sub-nanometer positioning.

First, we show that molecules terminated with amines, sulfides and phosphines bind selectively on gold and therefore demonstrate constant conductance levels even as the junction is elongated and the metal-molecule attachment point is modified. Such well-defined conductance is also obtained with paracyclophane molecules which bind to gold directly through the ð system.

Next, we are able to create metal-molecule-metal junctions with more than one reproducible conductance signatures that can be accessed by changing junction geometry. In the case of pyridine-linked molecules, conductance can be reliably switched between two distinct conductance states using sub-nanometer mechanical manipulation. Using a methyl sulfide linker attached to an oligoene backbone, we are able to create a 3-nm-long molecular potentiometer, whose resistance can be tuned exponentially with Angstom-scale modulations in metal-molecule configuration. These experiments points to a new paradigm for attaining reproducible electrical characteristics of metal-organic devices which involves controlling linker-metal chemistry rather than fabricating identically structured metal-molecule interfaces. By choosing a linker group which is either insensitive to or responds reproducibly to changes in metal-molecule configuration, one can design single molecule devices with functionality more complex than a simple resistor. These ambient temperature experiments were combined with UHV conductance measurements performed in a commercial STM on amine-terminated benzene derivatives which conduct through a non-resonant tunneling mechanism, at temperatures varying from 5 to 300 Kelvin.

Our results indicate that while amine-gold binding remains selective irrespective of environment, conductance is not temperature independent, in contrast to what is expected for a tunneling mechanism. Furthermore, using temperature-dependent measurements in ambient conditions we find that HOMO-conducting amines and LUMO-conducting pyridines show opposite dependence of conductance on temperature. These results indicate that energy-level alignment between the molecule and the electrodes changes as a result of varying electrode structure at different temperatures. We find that temperature can serve as a knob with which to tune transport properties of single molecule-metal junctions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
Thesis Advisors
Venkataraman, Latha
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 10, 2012