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Nano Lett. 2012 Mar 14;12(3):1643-7. doi: 10.1021/nl2045815. Epub 2012 Feb 24.

Dissecting contact mechanics from quantum interference in single-molecule junctions of stilbene derivatives.

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  • 1Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.


Electronic factors in molecules such as quantum interference and cross-conjugation can lead to dramatic modulation and suppression of conductance in single-molecule junctions. Probing such effects at the single-molecule level requires simultaneous measurements of independent junction properties, as conductance alone cannot provide conclusive evidence of junction formation for molecules with low conductivity. Here, we compare the mechanics of the conducting para-terminated 4,4'-di(methylthio)stilbene and moderately conducting 1,2-bis(4-(methylthio)phenyl)ethane to that of insulating meta-terminated 3,3'-di(methylthio)stilbene single-molecule junctions. We simultaneously measure force and conductance across single-molecule junctions and use force signatures to obtain independent evidence of junction formation and rupture in the meta-linked cross-conjugated molecule even when no clear low-bias conductance is measured. By separately quantifying conductance and mechanics, we identify the formation of atypical 3,3'-di(methylthio)stilbene molecular junctions that are mechanically stable but electronically decoupled. While theoretical studies have envisaged many plausible systems where quantum interference might be observed, our experiments provide the first direct quantitative study of the interplay between contact mechanics and the distinctively quantum mechanical nature of electronic transport in single-molecule junctions.

© 2012 American Chemical Society

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