Mechanically controlled binary conductance switching of a single-molecule junction

Su Ying Quek; Kamenetska, Maria; Steigerwald, Michael L.; Hyoung Joon Choi; Louie, Steven G.; Hybertsen, Mark S.; Neaton, J. B.; Venkataraman, Latha
April 2009
Nature Nanotechnology;Apr2009, Vol. 4 Issue 4, p230
Academic Journal
Molecular-scale components are expected to be central to the realization of nanoscale electronic devices. Although molecular-scale switching has been reported in atomic quantum point contacts, single-molecule junctions provide the additional flexibility of tuning the on/off conductance states through molecular design. To date, switching in single-molecule junctions has been attributed to changes in the conformation or charge state of the molecule. Here, we demonstrate reversible binary switching in a single-molecule junction by mechanical control of the metal–molecule contact geometry. We show that 4,4'-bipyridine–gold single-molecule junctions can be reversibly switched between two conductance states through repeated junction elongation and compression. Using first-principles calculations, we attribute the different measured conductance states to distinct contact geometries at the flexible but stable nitrogen–gold bond: conductance is low when the N–Au bond is perpendicular to the conducting π-system, and high otherwise. This switching mechanism, inherent to the pyridine–gold link, could form the basis of a new class of mechanically activated single-molecule switches.


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