Single-molecule-level characterization of supramolecular systems at surfaces

This thesis deals with the self-organization of individual building blocks, specifically organic molecules and metal atoms, into supramolecular structures on metal surfaces under ultra high vacuum conditions (UHV). Self-organization of supramolecular systems is a promising candidate for a bottom-up approach in the fabrication of complex structures with specific properties. This process is steered by interactions between functional groups of the individual building blocks and is of apparent interest to gain a detailed understanding of the influence and the behavior of these functional groups enabling intermolecular binding. In the first part of the thesis, we investigate hydrogen bonded structures on metal surfaces. Of especial interest is the possibility of the formation of ionic hydrogen bonds, a special class of hydrogen bond which connects a charged donor (acceptor) and a neutral acceptor (donor) and is important in biological systems. By combined Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM), X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) measurement we show the deprotonation of carboxylic functions in the molecules, forming carboxylate groups involved in intermolecular binding. With our complementary experimental and theoretical examinations we clearly show that the carboxylate groups are indeed still charged although adsorbed onto a conducting metal surface and that the observed structures can be computationally reproduced by using these charges in classical molecular dynamic calculations. Our investigations clearly reveal that all requirements for the formation of ionic hydrogen bonds in these samples at metal surfaces under solvent free conditions are fulfilled. In the second part, the confinement of surface state electrons in self-assembled hydrogen-bonded structures is investigated. The examined structure contains two-dimensional cavities, with different inner diameters in the periodic arrangement and in domain boundaries. Inside the cavities we detect a spatially localized modification in the local density of states (LDOS) of the Ag(111) surface state electrons. The energy of the peak correlates with the cavity area as predicted by a simple "particle in a box" model. This clearly shows that the surface state electrons form a confined state inside the cavities. Furthermore we examine self-assembled periodic structures as templates for binding single macrocyclic molecules. The macrocyclic molecules can be deposited by sublimation, as STM-topographs with submolecular resolution reflect the shape of the intact molecules and reveal a coverage dependent aggregation behavior. We show that it is possible to fabricate a structure in which at most one macrocyclic molecule per pore can be found in a defined binding position. In the last part of the thesis we investigate the influence of individual metal atoms on the chemical activity and the self-assembly process of molecules on metal surfaces. First, we demonstrate the high chemical reactivity of these metal atoms. In our experiments we address the chemical reactivity of static active sites, like kinks and step edges, and of dynamic active sites, like the metal atoms, separately. Doing this we show that a non-negligible amount of the chemical reactivity of a metal surface is due to this dynamic adatom gas. Furthermore the influence of metal atoms on the structure formation of organic molecules is investigated. We show that two-dimensional structures based on a complex formation between metal centers and ligands can be formed and that the coordination number is independent of the substrate symmetry. Furthermore, we show the possibility that on metal surfaces one can prepare three-fold coordinated Fe-centers, a coordination number which is rarely seen in three dimensional chemistry. In the last part we study catenanes, which consist of two interlocked macrocyclic molecules. Main interest is on the confirmation of a structural change of the catenanes adsorbed on a metal substrate. For our experiments we use the fact that the catenanes are designed to "trap" a Cu-atom by complex formation. As this reaction is associated with a structural change and a change in intermolecular interaction, we can verify a reaction of catenanes adsorbed onto a surface with Cu adatoms and therefore a structural alteration by simply imaging the formed structures. Our measurements show the possibility of depositing large molecules like catenanes by sublimation and of their potential for use as molecular machines adsorbed onto metal surfaces.

Kern, Klaus
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis3731-5

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2006-12-20, last modified 2018-01-27

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