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Sci Prog. 2005;88(Pt 1):17-48.

Molecular engineering of surfaces using self-assembled monolayers.

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  • 1Harvard University, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cambridge, MA 02138-2902, USA.


The self-assembly of molecules into structurally organized monolayers (SAMs) uses the flexibility of organic chemistry and coordination chemistry to generate well-defined, synthetic surfaces with known molecular and macroscopic properties. The process of designing monolayers with a specified structure gives a high level of control over the molecular-level composition in the direction perpendicular to a surface; soft lithographic technique gives useful (if lower) resolution in the plane of the surface. Alkanethiolates adsorbed on gold, silver, mercury, palladium and platinum are currently the best-defined systems of SAMs. They provide substrates for a number of applications-from studies of wetting and electron transport to patterns for growing mammalian cells. SAMs have made organic surfaces a central part of surface science. Understanding the principles by which they form, and connecting molecular-level structure with macroscopic properties, opens a wide range of areas to study and exploitation.

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