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Determination of electric and thermoelectric properties of molecular junctions by AFM in peak force tapping mode

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number385704
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/07/2023
Issue number38
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Molecular thin films, such as self-assembled monolayers (SAMs), offer the possibility of translating the optimised thermophysical and electrical properties of high-Seebeck-coefficient single molecules to scalable device architectures. However, for many scanning probe-based approaches attempting to characterise such SAMs, there remains a significant challenge in recovering single-molecule equivalent values from large-area films due to the intrinsic uncertainty of the probe-sample contact area coupled with film damage caused by contact forces. Here we report a new reproducible non-destructive method for probing the electrical and thermoelectric properties of small assemblies (10 – 103) of thiol-terminated molecules arranged within a SAM on a gold surface, and demonstrate the successful and reproducible measurements of the equivalent single-molecule electrical conductivity and Seebeck values. We have used a modified thermal-electric force microscopy (TEFM) approach, which integrates the conductive-probe atomic force microscope, a sample positioned on a temperature-controlled heater, and a probe-sample peak-force feedback that interactively limits the normal force across the molecular junctions. The experimental results are interpreted by density functional theory calculations allowing quantification the electrical quantum transport properties of both single molecules and small clusters of molecules. Significantly, this approach effectively eliminates lateral forces between probe and sample, minimising disruption to the SAM while enabling simultaneous mapping of the SAMs nanomechanical properties, as well as electrical and/or thermoelectric response, thereby allowing correlation of the film properties.