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IBM 'clicks' electric charge in single molecule

Posted: 28 Feb 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:charge distribution  research  solar photoconversion  molecular scale computing  Kelvin probe force microscopy 

For the first time, IBM scientists have been successful in measuring how charge is distributed within a single molecule. "This achievement will enable fundamental scientific insights into single-molecule switching and bond formation between atoms and molecules," IBM believed.

The ability to image the charge distribution within functional molecular structures holds great promise for future applications such as solar photoconversion, energy storage, or molecular scale computing devices.

The discovery could be used to study charge separation and charge transport in so-called charge-transfer complexes. These consist of two or more molecules and hold tremendous promise for applications such as computing, energy storage or photovoltaics.

In particular, the technique could contribute to the design of molecular-sized transistors that enable more energy efficient computing devices ranging from sensors to mobile phones to supercomputers.

The scientists achieved this breakthrough by using a special kind of atomic force microscopy called Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) at low temperatures and in ultra high vacuum.

"This technique provides another channel of information that will further our understanding of nanoscale physics. It will now be possible to investigate at the single-molecule level how charge is redistributed when individual chemical bonds are formed between atoms and molecules on surfaces," explained Fabian Mohn, the Physics of Nanoscale Systems group at IBM Research—Zurich. "This is essential as we seek to build atomic and molecular scale devices."

Gerhard Meyer, a senior IBM scientist who leads the scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) research activities at IBM Research—Zurich added, "The present work marks an important step in our long term effort on controlling and exploring molecular systems at the atomic scale with scanning probe microscopy."

The scientific paper entitled "Imaging the charge distribution within a single molecule" was published online in Nature Nanotechnology.





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