Correlations between molecular structure and single-junction conductance: a case study with oligo(phenylene-ethynylene)-type wires

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Mar 21;134(11):5262-75. doi: 10.1021/ja211555x. Epub 2012 Mar 6.


The charge transport characteristics of 11 tailor-made dithiol-terminated oligo(phenylene-ethynylene) (OPE)-type molecules attached to two gold electrodes were studied at a solid/liquid interface in a combined approach using an STM break junction (STM-BJ) and a mechanically controlled break junction (MCBJ) setup. We designed and characterized 11 structurally distinct dithiol-terminated OPE-type molecules with varied length and HOMO/LUMO energy. Increase of the molecular length and/or of the HOMO-LUMO gap leads to a decrease of the single-junction conductance of the linearly conjugate acenes. The experimental data and simulations suggest a nonresonant tunneling mechanism involving hole transport through the molecular HOMO, with a decay constant β = 3.4 ± 0.1 nm(-1) and a contact resistance R(c) = 40 kΩ per Au-S bond. The introduction of a cross-conjugated anthraquinone or a dihydroanthracene central unit results in lower conductance values, which are attributed to a destructive quantum interference phenomenon for the former and a broken π-conjugation for the latter. The statistical analysis of conductance-distance and current-voltage traces revealed details of evolution and breaking of molecular junctions. In particular, we explored the effect of stretching rate and junction stability. We compare our experimental results with DFT calculations using the ab initio code SMEAGOL and discuss how the structure of the molecular wires affects the conductance values.