Bipolar Conductance Switching of Single Anthradithiophene Molecules
Single molecular switches are basic device elements in organic electronics. The pentacene analogue anthradithiophene (ADT) shows a fully reversible binary switching between different adsorption conformations on a metallic surface accompanied by a charge transfer. These transitions are activated locally in single molecules in a low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. The switching induces changes between bistable orbital structures and energy level alignment at the interface. The most stable geometry, the "off" state, which all molecules adopt upon evaporation, corresponds to a short adsorption distance at which the electronic interactions of the acene rings bend the central part of the molecule toward the surface accompanied by a significant charge transfer from the metallic surface to the ADT molecules. This leads to a shift of the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital down to the Fermi level (E-F). In the "on" state the molecule has a flat geometry at a larger distance from the surface; consequently the interaction is weaker, resulting in a negligible charge transfer with an orbital structure resembling the highest occupied molecular orbital when imaged close to E-F. The potential barrier between these two states can be overcome reversibly by injecting charge carriers locally into individual molecules. Voltage-controlled current traces show a hysteresis characteristic of a bipolar switching behavior. The interpretation is supported by first-principles calculations.