Electrochemically controlled rectification in symmetric single-molecule junctions

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



Single-molecule electrochemical science has advanced over the past decades and now extends well beyond molecular imaging, to molecular electronics functions such as rectification and amplification. Rectification is conceptually the simplest but has involved mostly challenging chemical synthesis of asymmetric molecular structures or asymmetric materials and geometry of the two enclosing electrodes. Here we propose an experimental and theoretical strategy for building and tuning in situ (in operando) rectification in two symmetric molecular structures in electrochemical environment. The molecules were designed to conduct electronically via either their lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO; electron transfer) or highest occupied molecular orbital (HOMO; "hole transfer"). We used a bipotentiostat to control separately the electrochemical potential of the tip and substrate electrodes of an electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope (EC-STM), which leads to independent energy alignment of the STM tip, the molecule, and the STM substrate. By creating an asymmetric energy alignment, we observed single-molecule rectification of each molecule within a voltage range of ±0.5 V. By varying both the dominating charge transporting LUMO or HOMO energy and the electrolyte concentration, we achieved tuning of the polarity as well as the amplitude of the rectification. We have extended an earlier proposed theory that predicts electrolyte-controlled rectification to rationalize all the observed in situ rectification features and found excellent agreement between theory and experiments. Our study thus offers a way toward building controllable single-molecule rectifying devices without involving asymmetric molecular structures.


FachzeitschriftProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : PNAS
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 27 Sept. 2022

Externe IDs

PubMed 36136968


ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete


  • bipotential control, electrolytic control, symmetric single-molecule junctions, tunneling current rectification