Nano Science and Technology Institute

Unraveling Intricate Interactions, One Molecule at a Time

August 20, 2012 11:18 AM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

In key step towards design of better organic electronic devices, Columbia Engineering team makes first single-molecule measurement of van der Waals interactions at a metal-organic interface

Story content courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory, on behalf of Columbia University, US

A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering, led by Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics Associate Professor Latha Venkataraman and in collaboration with Mark Hybertsen from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, has succeeded in performing the first quantitative characterization of van der Waals interactions at metal/organic interfaces at the single-molecule level.

The team has shown the existence of two distinct binding regimes in gold-molecule-gold single-molecule junctions, using molecules containing nitrogen atoms at their extremities that are attracted to gold surfaces. While one binding mechanism is characterized by chemical interactions between the specific nitrogen and gold atoms, the other is dominated by van der Waals interactions between the molecule and the gold surface.

Future research, Venkataram adds, will include trying to control the interplay of van der Waals non-specific interactions with chemical modifications, in order to “achieve interesting functionality at the single-molecule level, which is an active area of research in our lab.”

This research was funded primarily by NSF and the Packard Foundation. The computational efforts at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory were supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

 

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