Theses Doctoral

Single Molecule Conductance of Oligothiophene Derivatives

Dell, Emma Jane

This thesis studies the electronic properties of small organic molecules based on the thiophene motif. If we are to build next-generation devices, advanced materials must be designed which possess requisite electronic functionality. Molecules present attractive candidates for these advanced materials since nanoscale devices are particularly sought after. However, selecting a molecule that is suited to a certain electronic function remains a challenge, and characterization of electronic behavior is therefore critical. Single molecule conductance measurements are a powerful tool to determine properties on the nanoscale and, as such, can be used to investigate novel building blocks that may fulfill the design requirements of next-generation devices. Combining these conductance results with strategic chemical synthesis allows for the development of new families of molecules that show attractive properties for future electronic devices. Since thiophene rings are the fruitflies of organic semiconductors on the bulk scale, they present an intriguing starting point for building functional materials on the nanoscale, and therefore form the structural basis of all molecules studied herein.
First, the single-molecule conductance of a family of bithiophene derivatives was measured. A broad distribution in the single-molecule conductance of bithiophene was found compared with that of a biphenyl. This increased breadth in the conductance distribution was shown to be explained by the difference in 5-fold symmetry of thiophene rings as compared to the 6-fold symmetry of benzene rings. The reduced symmetry of thiophene rings results in a restriction on the torsion angle space available to these molecules when bound between two metal electrodes
in a junction, causing each molecular junction to sample a different set of conformers in the conductance measurements. By contrast, the rotations of biphenyl are essentially unimpeded by junction binding, allowing each molecular junction to sample similar conformers. This work demonstrates that the conductance of bithiophene displays a strong dependence on the confor- mational fluctuations accessible within a given junction configuration, and that the symmetry of such small molecules can significantly influence their conductance behavior.
Next, the single-molecule conductance of a family of oligothiophenes comprising one to six thiophene units was measured. An anomalous behavior was found: the peak of the conduc- tance histogram distribution did not follow a clear exponential decay with increasing number of thiophene units in the chain. The electronic properties of the materials were characterized by optical spectroscopy and electrochemistry to gain an understanding of the factors affecting the conductance of these molecules. Different conformers in the junction were postulated to be a contributing factor to the anomalous trend in the observed conductance as a function of molecule length.
Then, the electronic properties of the thiophene-1,1-dioxide unit were investigated. These motifs have become synthetically accessible in the last decade, due to Rozen's unprecedentedly potent oxidizing reagent - HOF·CH3CN - which has been shown to be powerful yet selective enough to oxidize thiophenes in various environments. The resulting thiophene-1,1-dioxides show great promise for electronic devices. The oxidation chemistry of thiophenes was expanded and tuning of the frontier energy levels was demonstrated through combining electron poor and electron rich units.
Finally, charge carriers in single-molecule junctions were shown to be tunable within a family
of molecules containing these thiophene-1,1-dioxide (TDO) building blocks. Oligomers of TDO were designed in order to increase electron affinity, maintain delocalized frontier orbitals, while significantly decreasing the transport gap. Through thermopower measurements, the dominant charge carriers were shown to change from holes to electrons as the number of TDO units was increased. This resulted in a unique system in which the charge carrier depends on backbone length, providing a new means to tune p- and n-type transport in organic materials.
Taken together, the results presented in this thesis offer an insight into how molecular symme- try and the accessible conformers within a junction have important consequences on conductance behavior. Additionally, thiophene-1,1-dioxide is shown to be an exciting unit for single molecule devices, especially when combined with electron rich thiophene flanking groups. By demon- strating, for the first time, a change in conductance pathway with molecular length, this work provides a framework for using frontier orbital levels to strategically design electronic building blocks.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Nuckolls, Colin
Venkataraman, Latha
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 26, 2015