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      Imaging the charge distribution within a single molecule

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      Nature Nanotechnology
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Scanning tunnelling microscopy and atomic force microscopy can be used to study the electronic and structural properties of surfaces, as well as molecules and nanostructures adsorbed on surfaces, with atomic precision, but they cannot directly probe the distribution of charge in these systems. However, another form of scanning probe microscopy, Kelvin probe force microscopy, can be used to measure the local contact potential difference between the scanning probe tip and the surface, a quantity that is closely related to the charge distribution on the surface. Here, we use a combination of scanning tunnelling microscopy, atomic force microscopy and Kelvin probe force microscopy to examine naphthalocyanine molecules (which have been used as molecular switches) on a thin insulating layer of NaCl on Cu(111). We show that Kelvin probe force microscopy can map the local contact potential difference of this system with submolecular resolution, and we use density functional theory calculations to verify that these maps reflect the intramolecular distribution of charge. This approach could help to provide fundamental insights into single-molecule switching and bond formation, processes that are usually accompanied by the redistribution of charge within or between molecules.

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          Kelvin probe force microscopy

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            Chemical identification of individual surface atoms by atomic force microscopy.

            Scanning probe microscopy is a versatile and powerful method that uses sharp tips to image, measure and manipulate matter at surfaces with atomic resolution. At cryogenic temperatures, scanning probe microscopy can even provide electron tunnelling spectra that serve as fingerprints of the vibrational properties of adsorbed molecules and of the electronic properties of magnetic impurity atoms, thereby allowing chemical identification. But in many instances, and particularly for insulating systems, determining the exact chemical composition of surfaces or nanostructures remains a considerable challenge. In principle, dynamic force microscopy should make it possible to overcome this problem: it can image insulator, semiconductor and metal surfaces with true atomic resolution, by detecting and precisely measuring the short-range forces that arise with the onset of chemical bonding between the tip and surface atoms and that depend sensitively on the chemical identity of the atoms involved. Here we report precise measurements of such short-range chemical forces, and show that their dependence on the force microscope tip used can be overcome through a normalization procedure. This allows us to use the chemical force measurements as the basis for atomic recognition, even at room temperature. We illustrate the performance of this approach by imaging the surface of a particularly challenging alloy system and successfully identifying the three constituent atomic species silicon, tin and lead, even though these exhibit very similar chemical properties and identical surface position preferences that render any discrimination attempt based on topographic measurements impossible.
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              Current-induced hydrogen tautomerization and conductance switching of naphthalocyanine molecules.

              The bistability in the position of the two hydrogen atoms in the inner cavity of single free-base naphthalocyanine molecules constitutes a two-level system that was manipulated and probed by low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy. When adsorbed on an ultrathin insulating film, the molecules can be switched in a controlled fashion between the two states by excitation induced by the inelastic tunneling current. The tautomerization reaction can be probed by resonant tunneling through the molecule and is expressed as considerable changes in the conductivity of the molecule. We also demonstrated a coupling of the switching process so that the charge injection in one molecule induced tautomerization in an adjacent molecule.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Nanotechnology
                Nature Nanotech
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1748-3387
                1748-3395
                April 2012
                February 26 2012
                April 2012
                : 7
                : 4
                : 227-231
                Article
                10.1038/nnano.2012.20
                22367099
                0bfe4ee3-1a24-4783-8b05-86d4f00dcc05
                © 2012

                http://www.springer.com/tdm


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