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Resolving Intra- and Inter-Molecular Structure with Non-Contact Atomic Force Microscopy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/08/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number8
Volume16
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)19936-19959
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

A major challenge in molecular investigations at surfaces has been to image individual molecules, and the assemblies they form, with single-bond resolution. Scanning probe microscopy, with its exceptionally high resolution, is ideally suited to this goal. With the introduction of methods exploiting molecularly-terminated tips, where the apex of the probe is, for example, terminated with a single CO, Xe or H2 molecule, scanning probe methods can now achieve higher resolution than ever before. In this review, some of the landmark results related to attaining intramolecular resolution with non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) are summarised before focussing on recent reports probing molecular assemblies where apparent intermolecular features have been observed. Several groups have now highlighted the critical role that flexure in the tip-sample junction plays in producing the exceptionally sharp images of both intra- and apparent inter-molecular structure. In the latter case, the features have been identified as imaging artefacts, rather than real intermolecular bonds. This review discusses the potential for NC-AFM to provide exceptional resolution of supramolecular assemblies stabilised via a variety of intermolecular forces and highlights the potential challenges and pitfalls involved in interpreting bonding interactions