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Langmuir. 2004 Aug 17;20(17):7171-6.

Supramolecular assembly of strongly chemisorbed size- and shape-defined chiral clusters: S- and R-alanine on Cu(110).

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  • 1Surface Science Research Centre, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 3BX, United Kingdom.


The bonding and self-assembly of a chirally organized monolayer of alanine on the Cu(110) surface has been investigated using reflection-absorption infrared spectroscopy, low-energy electron diffraction (LEED), and scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). This multitechnique approach has enabled an in-depth understanding of the hierarchy of chirality transfer: from a single adsorbed molecule, to size-defined chiral clusters, and then to an overall chiral assembly. The data have indicated that the alanine is in its anionic form, bound to the copper surface through the oxygens of the ionized carboxylate group and the nitrogen of the neutral amino group. Importantly, the methyl group is held away from the surface, resulting in direct chirality transfer into the footprint of the adsorbed alanine molecules, with the local adsorption motif for S-alanine being the mirror image of that created for R-alanine. STM has shown that S-alanine molecules self-organize to form size-defined chiral clusters of six or eight molecules at the surface, interspersed with chiral channels of bare metal. Together, these clusters and channels further self-assemble into a chiral array with one unique chiral domain sustained across the entire surface. A similar chiral assembly, but with the mirror organization, has been observed for R-alanine. Structural models for the individual clusters are proposed, and in conjunction with LEED data, overall models for these chiral phases of both S- and R-alanine have been constructed. Overall, this adsorption system has been found to be both strongly chemisorbed and capable of extensive intermolecular H-bonding, causing stresses that lead not only to the chiral self-organization of molecules but also to a specific self-organization of the empty chiral channels and spaces that intersperse the structure which, in turn, chirally assemble across macroscopic length scales to give a surface with global organizational chirality.

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