Formation Mechanism for a Hybrid Supramolecular Network Involving Cooperative Interactions

Mura, Manuela orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3913-7595, Silly, Fabien, Burlakov, Victor, Castell, Martin, Briggs, G. and Kantorovich, Lev N. (2012) Formation Mechanism for a Hybrid Supramolecular Network Involving Cooperative Interactions. Physical Review Letters, 108 (17). pp. 1-5. ISSN 0031-9007

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A novel mechanism of hybrid assembly of molecules on surfaces is proposed stemming from interactions between molecules and on-surface metal atoms which eventually got trapped inside the network pores. Based on state-of-the-art theoretical calculations, we find that the new mechanism relies on formation of molecule-metal atom pairs which, together with molecules themselves, participate in the assembly growth. Most remarkably, the dissociation of pairs is facilitated by a cooperative interaction involving many molecules. This new mechanism is illustrated on a low coverage Melamine hexagonal network on the Au(111) surface where multiple events of gold atoms trapping via a set of so-called “gate” transitions are found by kinetic Monte Carlo simulations based on transition rates obtained using ab initio density functional theory calculations and the nudged elastic band method. Simulated STM images of gold atoms trapped in the pores of the Melamine network predict that the atoms should appear as bright spots inside Melamine hexagons. No trapping was found at large Melamine coverages, however. These predictions have been supported by preliminary STM experiments which show bright spots inside Melamine hexagons at low Melamine coverages, while empty pores are mostly observed at large coverages. Therefore, we suggest that bright spots sometimes observed in the pores of molecular assemblies on metal surfaces may be attributed to trapped substrate metal atoms. We believe that this type of mechanism could be used for delivering adatom species of desired functionality (e.g., magnetic) into the pores of hydrogen-bonded networks serving as templates for their capture.

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