Theses Doctoral

Force and Conductance Spectroscopy of Single Molecule Junctions

Frei, Michael

Investigation of mechanical properties of single molecule junctions is crucial to develop an understanding and enable control of single molecular junctions. This work presents an experimental and analytical approach that enables the statistical evaluation of force and simultaneous conductance data of metallic atomic point contacts and molecular junctions. A conductive atomic force microscope based break junction technique is developed to form single molecular junctions and collect conductance and force data simultaneously. Improvements of the optical components have been achieved through the use of a super luminescent diode, enabling tremendous increases in force resolution. An experimental procedure to collect data for various molecular junctions has been developed and includes deposition, calibration, and analysis methods.

For the statistical analysis of force, novel approaches based on two dimensional histograms and a direct force identification method are presented. The two dimensional method allows for an unbiased evaluation of force events that are identified using corresponding conductance signatures. This is not always possible however, and in these situations, the force based identification of junction rearrangement events is an attractive alternative method.

This combined experimental and analytical approach is then applied to three studies: First, the impact of molecular backbones to the mechanical behavior of single molecule junctions is investigated and it is found that junctions formed with identical linkers but different backbone structure result in junctions with varying breaking forces. All molecules used show a clear molecular signature and force data can be evaluated using the 2D method.

Second, the effects of the linker group used to attach molecules to gold electrodes are investigated. A study of four alkane molecules with different linkers finds a drastic difference in the evolution of donor acceptor and covalently bonded molecules respectively. In fact, the covalent bond is found to significantly distort the metal electrode rearrangement such that junction rearrangement events can no longer be identified with a clean and well defined conductance signature. For this case, the force based identification process is used. Third, results for break junction measurements with different metals are presented. It is found that silver and palladium junctions rupture with forces different from those of gold contacts. In the case of silver experiments in ambient conditions, we can also identify oxygen impurities in the silver contact formation process, leading to force and conductance measurements of silver-oxygen structures. For the future, this work provides an experimental and analytical foundation that will enable insights into single molecule systems not previously accessible.


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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 27, 2012