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Nano Lett. 2011 Oct 12;11(10):4089-94. doi: 10.1021/nl2014839. Epub 2011 Sep 15.

Thermoelectricity in fullerene-metal heterojunctions.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, United States.


Thermoelectricty in heterojunctions, where a single-molecule is trapped between metal electrodes, has been used to understand transport properties at organic-inorganic interfaces. (1) The transport in these systems is highly dependent on the energy level alignment between the molecular orbitals and the Fermi level (or work function) of the metal contacts. To date, the majority of single-molecule measurements have focused on simple small molecules where transport is dominated through the highest occupied molecular orbital. (2, 3) In these systems, energy level alignment is limited by the absence of electrode materials with low Fermi levels (i.e., large work functions). Alternatively, more controllable alignment between molecular orbitals and the Fermi level can be achieved with molecules whose transport is dominated by the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) because of readily available metals with lower work functions. Herein, we report molecular junction thermoelectric measurements of fullerene molecules (i.e., C(60), PCBM, and C(70)) trapped between metallic electrodes (i.e., Pt, Au, Ag). Fullerene junctions demonstrate the first strongly n-type molecular thermopower corresponding to transport through the LUMO, and the highest measured magnitude of molecular thermopower to date. While the electronic conductance of fullerenes is highly variable, due to fullerene's variable bonding geometries with the electrodes, the thermopower shows predictable trends based on the alignment of the LUMO with the work function of the electrodes. Both the magnitude and trend of the thermopower suggest that heterostructuring organic and inorganic materials at the nanoscale can further enhance thermoelectric performance, therein providing a new pathway for designing thermoelectric materials.

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