PAPER: Steering organizational and conformational surface chirality by controlling molecular chemical functionality

Bombis, C.; Weigelt, S.; Knudsen, M. M.; Nørgaard, M.; Busse, C.; Lægsgaard, E.; Besenbacher, F.; Gothelf, K. V.; Linderoth, T. R.

ACS Nano 2010, 4, 297–311, doi: 10.1021/nn9012803

Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) and Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO), Danish National Research Foundation: Centre for DNA Nanotechnology (CDNA) and Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark


Molecular chirality on surfaces has been widely explored, both for intrinsically chiral molecules and for prochiral molecules that become chiral upon adsorption due to the reduced symmetry which follows from surface confinement. However, little attention has been devoted to chiral effects that originate from conformational degrees of freedom for adsorbed molecules. Here we have used scanning tunneling microscopy to investigate the self-assembled structures formed when a class of six linear, organic molecules (oligo-phenylene-ethynylenes) are adsorbed on a Au(111) surface under ultrahigh vacuum conditions. All of the investigated compounds are intrinsically achiral, but most display conformational chirality in the sense that the molecules can adsorb on the surface in different conformations giving rise to either one of two chiral surface enantiomers or a mirror-symmetric achiral meso form. A total of eleven observed adsorption structures are systematically investigated with respect to conformational chirality as well as point chirality (arising where molecular adsorption locally breaks the substrate symmetry) and organizational chirality (arising from the tiling pattern of the molecular backbones). A number of interesting correlations are identified between these different levels of chirality. Most importantly, we demonstrate that it is possible through control of the terminal group functionalization to steer the oligo(phenylene-ethynylene) molecular backbones into surface assemblies that either display pronounced organizational chirality or have mirror symmetric tiling patterns, and that it is furthermore possible to control the conformational surface chirality so the compounds preferentially assume either chiral or achiral surface conformers.

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