Single-molecule chemistry of metal phthalocyanine on noble metal surfaces

Acc Chem Res. 2010 Jul 20;43(7):954-62. doi: 10.1021/ar9001558.


To develop new functional materials and nanoscale electronics, researchers would like to accurately describe and precisely control the quantum state of a single molecule on a surface. Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), combined with first-principles simulations, provides a powerful technique for acquiring this level of understanding. Traditionally, metal phthalocyanine (MPc) molecules, composed of a metal atom surrounded by a ligand ring, have been used as dyes and pigments. Recently, MPc molecules have shown great promise as components of light-emitting diodes, field-effect transistors, photovoltaic cells, and single-molecule devices. In this Account, we describe recent research on the characterization and control of adsorption and electronic states of a single MPc molecule on noble metal surfaces. In general, the electronic and magnetic properties of a MPc molecule largely depend on the type of metal ion within the phthalocyanine ligand and the type of surface on which the molecule is adsorbed. However, with the STM technique, we can use on-site molecular "surgery" to manipulate the structure and the properties of the molecule. For example, STM can induce a dehydrogenation reaction of the MPc, which allows us to control the Kondo effect, which describes the spin polarization of the molecule and its interaction with the complex environment. A specially designed STM tip can allow researchers to detect certain molecule-surface hybrid states that are not accessible by other techniques. By matching the local orbital symmetry of the STM tip and the molecule, we can generate the negative differential resistance effect in the formed molecular junction. This orbital symmetry based mechanism is extremely robust and does not critically depend on the geometry of the STM tip. In summary, this simple model system, a MPc molecule absorbed on a noble metal surface, demonstrates the power of STM for quantum characterization and manipulation of single molecules, highlighting the potential of this technique in a variety of applications.