Growth and characterization of specific self-assembled supramolecular architectures at crystal surfaces

In the framework of this thesis self-assembled supramolecular architectures of several molecular species on crystal metal surfaces are characterized. These investigations combine results obtained by means of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS), X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), and Near-Edge X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure Spectroscopy (NEXAFS). The interest in controlling the formation of specific arrangements of supramolecular ensembles at surfaces is motivated to a great extent by the prospect to design molecular devices and nanomaterials with customized properties. The goal is a "spontaneous" creation of targeted, well-ordered molecular architectures, which shall be achieved by taking advantage of the molecule's propensity to self-assemble. Control means, in this context, predictability. This term address the accuracy of the prediction of the structures resulting from molecular self-assembly for systems exhibiting different characteristics. Here, system stands for a particular combination of a single-crystal surface and adsorbed molecular species. In a first part, the focus is given to the impact of a Pd(111) surface exhibiting high chemical activity. Due to surface induced deprotonation two resulting chemical states are found for the adsorbed terephthalic acid species. Deprotonation of the carboxyl moieties is observed to affect the topology of the molecular assemblies even though hydrogen bonds (H-bonds) are responsible for the stabilization of assemblies of both, intact and deprotonated molecular species. Therefore, the selective fabrication of a single specific molecular structure becomes a challenge when the surface is prone to induce chemical reactions. Secondly, a molecular species exhibiting conformational flexibility is studied on a largely inert Au(111) surface. It is observed that the characteristic conformational flexibility is also active on the surface, and the molecule is found to adopt different conformations depending on the locally most favorable bonding motif. In particular, phenyl groups may undergo a rotation such that one-dimensional chains can be stabilized by means of intermolecular H-bonds. This phenomenon is very interesting from an adsorbate-substrate interaction point of view, but it limits the predictability of supramolecular structures formed upon self-assembly. In a third step, a comparative study of the self-assembly of three closely related molecular species highlights the impact of concurrent competing intermolecular interactions. Molecules exhibiting an increasing number of possible interaction channels are found to assemble into an increasing number of distinct supramolecular architectures. The most flexible molecular species allowing for different hydrogen-bonding patterns as well as dipolar coupling self-assembles into various structurally complex architectures. Structural predictability, however, is low since the formation of one or the other assembly appears to depend on small variations in sample preparation conditions and on poorly controllable local surface properties. Finally, a system where the resulting structures fully agree with predictions evidences the possibility to control the formation of targeted specific supramolecular architectures. The formation of well ordered bimolecular ribbons and wires over extended length scales is accomplished by the rational choice of both, complementary building blocks for the selective formation of three-fold H-bonds and a nanostructured surface to guide the molecular self-assembly. Furthermore, the impact of H-bond formation on the electronic structure of self-assembled molecular building blocks is probed by STS measurements. The experimental data reveal shifts in the electronic levels depending on the H-bond configuration and on the local characteristics of the underlying surface. In order to improve the precision of such a study, single molecules, homo- and heteromolecular dimers as well as trimers are successfully isolated and assembled by molecular manipulation with the STM tip. Further STS studies on such artificially assembled structures are suggested.


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