PAPER: Controlling chiral organization of molecular rods on Au(111) by molecular design

Knudsen, M. K.; Kalashnyk, N.; Masini, F.; Cramer, J. R.; Lægsgaard, E.; Besenbacher, F.; Linderoth, T. R.; Gothelf., K. V.

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 4896–4905, doi: 10.1021/ja110052n

Danish National Research Foundation: Center for DNA Nanotechnology (CDNA), Department of Chemistry and iNANO, Aarhus University, Langelandsgade 140, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark


Chiral self-assembled structures formed from organic molecules adsorbed on surfaces have been the subject of intense investigation in the recent decade, owing both to relevance in applications such as enantiospecific heterogeneous catalysis or chiral separation as well as to fundamental interest, for example, in relation to the origin of biomolecular homochirality. A central target is rational design of molecular building blocks allowing transfer of chirality from the molecular to the supramolecular level. We previously studied the surface self-assembly of a class of linear compounds based on an oligo(phenylene ethynylene) backbone, which were shown to form a characteristic windmill adsorption pattern on the Au(111) surface. However, since these prochiral compounds were intrinsically achiral, domains with oppositely oriented windmill motifs and related conformational surface enantiomers were always realized in equal proportion. Here we report on the enantioselective, high yield chemical synthesis of a structurally related but intrinsically chiral compound in which two peripheral tert-butyl substituents are replaced by sec-butyl groups, each containing an (S) chiral center. Using scanning tunneling microscopy under ultrahigh vacuum conditions, we characterize the adsorption structures formed from this compound on the Au(111) surface. The perturbation introduced by the modified molecular design is found to be sufficiently small so structures form that are closely analogous to those observed for the original tert-butyl substituted compound. However, as demonstrated from careful statistical analysis of high-resolution STM images, the introduction of the two chiral (S)-sec-butyl substituents leads to a strong preference for windmill motifs with one orientation, demonstrating control of the chiral organization of the molecular backbones through rational molecular design.

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