Our understanding of single-molecule electronics has become clearer and the answer involved using a common household item – salt.
Building off of a previous paper in 2009 (Science, “Measuring the Charge State of an Adatom with Noncontact Atomic Force Microscopy”), where IBM scientists and collaborators demonstrated the ability to measure the charge state of individual atoms using noncontact atomic force microscopy (AFM), they have now taken it a step further, measuring energy levels of single molecules on insulators, for the first time. The research is appearing today in the peer-review journal Nature Nanotechnology (“Reorganization energy upon charging a single molecule on an insulator measured by atomic force microscopy”).
Invented in the mid-1980s, the atomic force microscope measures tiny forces between the tip and the sample, such as a molecule on a support. The tip is a multi-purpose, precise instrument, which can image molecules at unprecedented resolution (Science, “The Chemical Structure of a Molecule Resolved by Atomic Force Microscopy”) and even trigger never before seen molecular reactions (Nature Chemistry, “Reversible Bergman cyclization by atomic manipulation”).

Image Credit:  © Nature Nanotechnology

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