Chemical structure imaging of a single molecule by atomic force microscopy at room temperature

Nat Commun. 2015 Jul 16;6:7766. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8766.


Atomic force microscopy is capable of resolving the chemical structure of a single molecule on a surface. In previous research, such high resolution has only been obtained at low temperatures. Here we demonstrate that the chemical structure of a single molecule can be clearly revealed even at room temperature. 3,4,9,10-perylene tetracarboxylic dianhydride, which is strongly adsorbed onto a corner-hole site of a Si(111)-(7 × 7) surface in a bridge-like configuration is used for demonstration. Force spectroscopy combined with first-principle calculations clarifies that chemical structures can be resolved independent of tip reactivity. We show that the submolecular contrast over a central part of the molecule is achieved in the repulsive regime due to differences in the attractive van der Waals interaction and the Pauli repulsive interaction between different sites of the molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't