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J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Jun 15;133(23):8838-41. doi: 10.1021/ja202178k. Epub 2011 May 20.

Effect of length and contact chemistry on the electronic structure and thermoelectric properties of molecular junctions.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


We present a combined experimental and computational study that probes the thermoelectric and electrical transport properties of molecular junctions. Experiments were performed on junctions created by trapping aromatic molecules between gold electrodes. The end groups (-SH, -NC) of the aromatic molecules were systematically varied to study the effect of contact coupling strength and contact chemistry. When the coupling of the molecule with one of the electrodes was reduced by switching the terminal chemistry from -SH to -H, the electrical conductance of molecular junctions decreased by an order of magnitude, whereas the thermopower varied by only a few percent. This has been predicted computationally in the past and is experimentally demonstrated for the first time. Further, our experiments and computational modeling indicate the prospect of tuning thermoelectric properties at the molecular scale. In particular, the thiol-terminated aromatic molecular junctions revealed a positive thermopower that increased linearly with length. This positive thermopower is associated with charge transport primarily through the highest occupied molecular orbital, as shown by our computational results. In contrast, a negative thermopower was observed for a corresponding molecular junction terminated by an isocyanide group due to charge transport primarily through the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital.

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