Conformation, and Charge Tunneling through Molecules in SAMs

Lee Belding, Samuel E. Root, Yuan Li, Junwoo Park, Mostafa Baghbanzadeh, Edwin Rojas, Priscilla F. Pieters, Hyo Jae Yoon, George M. Whitesides

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26 Citations (Scopus)


This paper demonstrates that the molecular conformation (in addition to the composition and structure) of molecules making up self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) influences the rates of charge tunneling (CT) through them, in molecular junctions of the form AuTS/S(CH2)2CONR1R2//Ga2O3/EGaIn, where R1 and R2 are alkyl chains of different length. The lengths of chains R1 and R2 were selected to influence the conformations and conformational homogeneity of the molecules in the monolayer. The conformations of the molecules influence the thickness of the monolayer (i.e. tunneling barrier width) and their rectification ratios at ±1.0 V. When R1 = H, the molecules are well ordered and exist predominantly in trans-extended conformations. When R1 is an alkyl group (e.g., R1 H), however, their conformations can no longer be all-trans-extended, and the molecules adopt more gauche dihedral angles. This change in the type of conformation decreases the conformational order and influences the rates of tunneling. When R1 = R2, the rates of CT decrease (up to 6.3×), relative to rates of CT observed through SAMs having the same total chain lengths, or thicknesses, when R1 = H. When R1 H R2, there is a weaker correlation (relative to that when R1 = H or R1 = R2) between current density and chain length or monolayer thickness, and in some cases the rates of CT through SAMs made from molecules with different R2 groups are different, even when the thicknesses of the SAMs (as determined by XPS) are the same. These results indicate that the thickness of a monolayer composed of insulating, amide-containing alkanethiols does not solely determine the rate of CT, and rates of charge tunneling are influenced by the conformation of the molecules making up the junction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3481-3493
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 10

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NSF award CHE-1808361. L.B. acknowledges fellowship support from NSERC Canada. E.R. acknowledges the Harvard REU program under NSF award DMR-1420570. Sample characterization was performed in part at the Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS) at Harvard University, a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which is supported by the National Science Foundation (ECS-0335765). This work used the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center through allocation DMR180105, which is supported by National Science Foundation grant number ACI-1548562. H.J.Y. acknowledges support from the NRF of Korea (NRF-2019R1A2C2011003, NRF-2019R1A6A1A11044070) and the Future Research Grant (FRG) of Korea University.

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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