Research highlights

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Research Highlights: 2015


J. Martínez-Blanco, C. Nacci, S. C. Erwin, K. Kanisawa, E. Locane, M. Thomas, F. von Oppen, P. W. Brouwer, S. Fölsch

Gating a single-molecule transistor with individual atoms

Nature Physics 11, 640 (2015)

Abstract. Transistors, regardless of their size, rely on electrical gates to control the conductance between source and drain contacts. In atomic-scale transistors, this conductance is sensitive to single electrons hopping via individual orbitals. Single-electron transport in molecular transistors has been previously studied using top-down approaches to gating, such as lithography and break junctions. But atomically precise control of the gate—which is crucial to transistor action at the smallest size scales—is not possible with these approaches. Here, we used individual charged atoms, manipulated by a scanning tunnelling microscope, to create the electrical gates for a single-molecule transistor. This degree of control allowed us to tune the molecule into the regime of sequential single-electron tunnelling, albeit with a conductance gap more than one order of magnitude larger than observed previously. This unexpected behaviour arises from the existence of two different orientational conformations of the molecule, depending on its charge state. Our results show that strong coupling between these charge and conformational degrees of freedom leads to new behaviour beyond the established picture of single-electron transport in atomic-scale transistors..


S. Bonacchi, M. El Garah, A. Ciesielski, M. Herder, S. Conti, M. Cecchini, S. Hecht, and P. Samorì

Surface-induced selection during in situ photoswitching at the liquid-solid interface

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 54, 4865 (2015)

Abstract. Here we report for the first time a submolecularly resolved scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) study at the solid/liquid interface of the in situ reversible interconversion between two isomers of a diarylethene photoswitch, that is, open and closed form, self-assembled on a graphite surface. Prolonged irradiation with UV light led to the in situ irreversible formation of another isomer as by-product of the reaction, which due to its preferential physisorption accumulates at the surface. By making use of a simple yet powerful thermodynamic model we provide a quantitative description for the observed surface-induced selection of one isomeric form.



M. Herder, B. Schmidt, L. Grubert, M. Pätzel, J. Schwarz, and S. Hecht

Improving the Fatigue Resistance of Diarylethene Switches

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 137, 2738 (2015)

Abstract. When applying photochromic switches as functional units in light-responsive materials or devices, an often disregarded yet crucial property is their resistance to fatigue during photoisomerization. In the large family of diarylethene photoswitches, formation of an annulated isomer as a byproduct of the photochromic reaction turns out to prevent the desired high reversibility for many different derivatives. To overcome this general problem, we have synthesized and thoroughly investigated the fatigue behavior of a series of diarylethenes, varying the nature of the hetaryl moieties, the bridging units, and the substituents. By analysis of photokinetic data, a quantification of the tendency for byproduct formation in terms of quantum yields could be achieved, and a strong dependency on the electronic properties of the substituents was observed. In particular, substitution with 3,5-bis(trifluoromethyl)phenyl or 3,5-bis(pentafluorosulfanyl)phenyl groups strongly suppresses the byproduct formation and opens up a general strategy to construct highly fatigue-resistant diarylethene photochromic systems with a large structural flexibility.



M. El Gemayel, K. Börjesson, M. Herder, D. T. Duong, J. A. Hutchison, C. Ruzié, G. Schweicher, A. Salleo, Y. Geerts, S. Hecht, E. Orgiu, and P. Samorì

Optically switchable transistors by simple incorporation of photochromic systems into small-molecule semiconducting matrices

Nat. Commun. 6, 6330 (2015)

Abstract: The fabrication of multifunctional high-performance organic thin-film transistors as key elements in future logic circuits is a major research challenge. Here we demonstrate that a photoresponsive bi-functional field-effect transistor with carrier mobilities exceeding 0.2 cm2 V−1 s−1 can be developed by incorporating photochromic molecules into an organic semiconductor matrix via a single-step solution processing deposition of a two components blend. Tuning the interactions between the photochromic diarylethene system and the organic semiconductor is achieved via ad-hoc side functionalization of the diarylethene. Thereby, a large-scale phase-segregation can be avoided and superior miscibility is provided, while retaining optimal π–π stacking to warrant efficient charge transport and to attenuate the effect of photoinduced switching on the extent of current modulation. This leads to enhanced electrical performance of transistors incorporating small conjugated molecules as compared with polymeric semiconductors. These findings are of interest for the development of high-performing optically gated electronic devices.




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