Theses Doctoral

Probing Electronic and Thermoelectric Properties of Single Molecule Junctions

Widawsky, Jonathan R.

In an effort to further understand electronic and thermoelectric phenomenon at the nanometer scale, we have studied the transport properties of single molecule junctions. To carry out these transport measurements, we use the scanning tunneling microscope-break junction (STM-BJ) technique, which involves the repeated formation and breakage of a metal point contact in an environment of the target molecule. Using this technique, we are able to create gaps that can trap the molecules, allowing us to sequentially and reproducibly create a large number of junctions. By applying a small bias across the junction, we can measure its conductance and learn about the transport mechanisms at the nanoscale. The experimental work presented here directly probes the transmission properties of single molecules through the systematic measurement of junction conductance (at low and high bias) and thermopower. We present measurements on a variety of molecular families and study how conductance depends on the character of the linkage (metal-molecule bond) and the nature of the molecular backbone. We start by describing a novel way to construct single molecule junctions by covalently connecting the molecular backbone to the electrodes. This eliminates the use of linking substituents, and as a result, the junction conductance increases substantially. Then, we compare transport across silicon chains (silanes) and saturated carbon chains (alkanes) while keeping the linkers the same and find a stark difference in their electronic transport properties. We extend our studies of molecular junctions by looking at two additional aspects of quantum transport - molecular thermopower and molecular current-voltage characteristics. Each of these additional parameters gives us further insight into transport properties at the nanoscale. Evaluating the junction thermopower allows us to determine the nature of charge carriers in the system and we demonstrate this by contrasting the measurement of amine-terminated and pyridine-terminated molecules (which exhibit hole transport and electron transport, respectively). We also report the thermopower of the highly conducting, covalently bound molecular junctions that we have recently been able to form, and learn that, because of their unique transport properties, the junction power factors, GS2, are extremely high. Finally, we discuss the measurement of molecular current-voltage curves and consider the electronic and physical effects of applying a large bias to the system. We conclude with a summary of the work discussed and an outlook on related scientific studies.


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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
September 13, 2013