The importance of chemical bonding to the contact for tunneling through alkyl chains

Yoram Selzer, Adi Salomon, David Cahen

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The effect of the presence or absence of chemical bonds between alkyl chain monolayers and the contacts in metal/molecule/semiconductor junctions on the current-voltage characteristics was studied. Three types of junctions were used: Hg/alkylthiols/SiO2/p-Si, Hg/alkylthiols/p-Si-H, and Hg/alkylsilanes/SiO2/p-Si. While in the first two junctions current is attenuated exponentially as a function of the length of the alkyl chain, a characteristic behavior of tunneling, the current through the third junction does not reveal such behavior, suggesting that current transport is different in this case. We postulate that this is because in the first two junctions the monolayers are covalently bound to the Hg, while in the third junction, the alkysilanes are anchored to the Si surface only at a few points and are best viewed as not bonded to either side of the junction. The mechanism of current flow through the first two junctions is thought to be through-bond tunneling, and our results indicate that a chemical bond to at least one of the electrode surfaces is essential for this mechanism to operate. Electrostriction causes changes in the current-voltage characteristics of the first two junctions. Evidence is presented suggesting that electrostriction tilts short chains (≤C12), resulting in an additional route to charge transport by tunneling through space. In contrast, long chains (≥C14) do not tilt under pressure; instead, gauche defects are formed in their initial all-trans configuration decreasing the efficiency of electronic coupling through them. The use of p-type Si in this study ensures that at low bias voltages holes are the dominant charge carriers. Holes are found to tunnel more efficiently than electrons in agreement with theoretical predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10432-10439
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number40
StatePublished - 10 Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


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