Signatures of Room-Temperature Quantum Interference in Molecular Junctions

Liu, Shi-Xia and Ismael, Ali K. and Al-Jobory, Alaa and Lambert, Colin J. (2023) Signatures of Room-Temperature Quantum Interference in Molecular Junctions. Accounts of Chemical Research, 56 (3). pp. 322-331. ISSN 0001-4842

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Conspectus During the past decade or so, research groups around the globe have sought to answer the question: "How does electricity flow through single molecules?" In seeking the answer to this question, a series of joint theory and experimental studies have demonstrated that electrons passing through single-molecule junctions exhibit exquisite quantum interference (QI) effects, which have no classical analogues in conventional circuits. These signatures of QI appear even at room temperature and can be described by simple quantum circuit rules and a rather intuitive magic ratio theory. The latter describes the effect of varying the connectivity of electrodes to a molecular core and how electrical conductance can be controlled by the addition of heteroatoms to molecular cores. The former describes how individual moieties contribute to the overall conductance of a molecule and how the overall conductance can change when the connectivities between different moieties are varied. Related circuit rules have been derived and demonstrated, which describe the effects of connectivity on Seebeck coefficients of organic molecules. This simplicity arises because when a molecule is placed between two electrodes, charge transfer between the molecule and electrodes causes the molecular energy levels to adjust, such that the Fermi energy ( ) of the electrodes lies within the energy gap between the highest occupied molecular orbital and lowest unoccupied molecular orbital. Consequently, when electrons of energy pass through a molecule, their phase is protected and transport takes place via phase-coherent tunneling. Remarkably, these effects have been scaled up to self-assembled monolayers of molecules, thereby creating two-dimensional materials, whose room temperature transport properties are controlled by QI. This leads to new molecular design strategies for increasing the on/off conductance ratio of molecular switches and to improving the performance of organic thermoelectric materials. In particular, destructive quantum interference has been shown to improve the Seebeck coefficient of organic molecules and increase their on/off ratio under the influence of electrochemical gating. The aim of this Account is to introduce the novice reader to these signatures of QI in molecules, many of which have been identified in joint studies involving our theory group in Lancaster University and experimental group in Bern University.

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Accounts of Chemical Research
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14 Feb 2023 16:20
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 01:58