Test-beds for Molecular Electronics: Metal–Molecules–Metal Junctions Based on Hg Electrodes


  • Felice Carlo Simeone Dipartimen to di Chimica, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy
  • Maria Anita Rampi Dipartimen to di Chimica, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy; Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, US




Electron transfer, Hg electrodes, Molecular electronics, Molecular junction, Self-assembled monolayer


Junctions based on mesoscopic Hg electrodes are used to characterize the electrical properties of the organic molecules organized in self-assembled monolayers (SAMs). The junctions M-SAM//SAM-Hg are formed by one electrode based on metals (M) such as Hg, Ag, Au, covered by a SAM, and by a second electrode always formed by a Hg drop carrying also a SAM. The electrodes, brought together by using a micromanipulator, sandwich SAMs of different nature at the contact area (?0.7 ?m2). The high versatility of the system allows a series of both electrical and electrochemical junctions to be assembled and characterized: i) The compliant nature of the Hg electrodes allows incorporation into the junction and measurement of the electrical behavior of a large number of molecular systems and correlation of their electronic structure to the electrical behavior; ii) by functionalizing both electrodes with SAMs exposing different functional groups, X and Y, it is possible to compare the rate of electron transfer through different X···Y molecular interactions; iii) when the junction incorporates one of the electrode formed by a semitransparent film of Au, it allows electrical measurements under irradiation of the sandwiched SAMs. In this case the junction behaves as a photoswitch; iv) incorporation of redox centres with low lying, easily reachable energy levels, provides electron stations as indicated by the hopping mechanism dominating the current flow; v) electrochemical junctions incorporating redox centres by both covalent and electrostatic interactions permit control of the potential of the electrodes with respect to that of the redox state by means of an external reference electrode. Both these junctions show an electrical behavior similar to that of conventional diodes, even though the mechanism generating the current flow is different. These systems, demonstrating high mechanical stability and reproducibility, easy assembly, and a wide variety of produced results, are convenient test-beds for molecular electronics and represent a useful complement to physics-based experimental methods.






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