Forming atomic-scale contacts with attractive geometries and material compositions is a long-term goal of nanotechnology. Here, we show that a rich family of bimetallic atomic-contacts can be fabricated in break-junction setups. The structure and material composition of these contacts can be controlled by atomically precise electromigration, where the metal types of the electron-injecting and sink electrodes determine the type of atoms added to, or subtracted from, the contact structure. The formed bimetallic structures include, for example, platinum and aluminum electrodes bridged by an atomic chain composed of platinum and aluminum atoms as well as iron-nickel single-atom contacts that act as a spin-valve break junction without the need for sophisticated spin-valve geometries. The versatile nature of atomic contacts in bimetallic junctions and the ability to control their structure by electromigration can be used to expand the structural variety of atomic and molecular junctions and their span of properties.
In contrast to silicon-based transistors, single-molecule junctions can be gated by simple mechanical means. Specifically, charge can be transferred between the junction’s electrodes and its molecular bridge when the interelectrode distance is modified, leading to variations in the electronic transport properties of the junction. While this effect has been studied extensively, the influence of the molecular orientation on mechanical gating has not been addressed, despite its potential influence on the gating effectiveness. Here, we show that the same molecular junction can experience either clear mechanical gating or none, depending on the molecular orientation in the junctions. The effect is found in silver-ferrocene-silver break junctions and analyzed in view of ab initio and transport calculations, where the influence of the molecular orbital geometry on charge transfer to or from the molecule is revealed. The molecular orientation is thus a new degree of freedom that can be used to optimize mechanically gated molecular junctions.
We report on a quantum form of electronic flicker noise in nanoscale conductors that contains valuable
information on quantum transport. This noise is experimentally identified in atomic and molecular junctions, and
theoretically analyzed by considering quantum interference due to fluctuating scatterers. Using conductance, shot
noise, and flicker noise measurements, we show that the revealed quantum flicker noise uniquely depends on the
distribution of transmission channels, a key characteristic of quantum conductors. This dependence opens the
door for the application of flicker noise as a diagnostic probe for fundamental properties of quantum conductors
and many-body quantum effects, a role that up to now has been performed by the experimentally less-accessible
When reducing the size of materials towards the nanoscale, magnetic properties can emerge due to structural variations. Here, we show the reverse effect, where the structure of nanomaterials is controlled by magnetic manipulations. Using the break-junction technique, we find that the interatomic distance in platinum atomic wires is shorter or longer by up to ∼20%, when a magnetic field is applied parallel or perpendicular to the wires during their formation, respectively. The magnetic field direction also affects the wire length, where longer (shorter) wires are formed under a parallel (perpendicular) field. Our experimental analysis, supported by calculations, indicates that the direction of the applied magnetic field promotes the formation of suspended atomic wires with a specific magnetization orientation associated with typical orbital characteristics, interatomic distance, and stability. A similar effect is found for various metal and metal-oxide atomic wires, demonstrating that magnetic fields can control the atomistic structure of different nanomaterials when applied during their formation stage.
We report on a quantum form of electronic flicker noise in nanoscale conductors that contains valuable information on quantum transport. This noise is experimentally identified in atomic and molecular junctions and theoretically analyzed by considering quantum interference due to fluctuating scatterers. Using conductance, shot-noise, and flicker-noise measurements, we show that the revealed quantum flicker noise uniquely depends on the distribution of transmission channels, a key characteristic of quantum conductors. This dependence opens the door for the application of flicker noise as a diagnostic probe for fundamental properties of quantum conductors and many-body quantum effects, a role that up to now has been performed by the experimentally less-accessible shot noise.
A critical overview of the theory of the chirality-induced spin selectivity (CISS) effect, that is, phenomena in which the chirality of molecular species imparts significant spin selectivity to various electron processes, is provided. Based on discussions in a recently held workshop, and further work published since, the status of CISS effects-in electron transmission, electron transport, and chemical reactions-is reviewed. For each, a detailed discussion of the state-of-the-art in theoretical understanding is provided and remaining challenges and research opportunities are identified.
In the field of molecular electronics, the interplay between molecular orientation and the resulting electronic transport is of central interest. At the single molecule level, this topic is extensively studied with the aid of break junction setups. In such experiments, two metal electrodes are brought into contact, and the conductance is typically measured when the electrodes are pulled apart in the presence of molecules, until a molecule bridges the two electrodes. However, the molecular junctions formed in this pull process reflect only part of the rich possible junction configurations. Here, we show that the push process, in which molecular junctions are formed by bringing the electrodes towards each other, allows the fabrication of molecular junction structures that are not necessarily formed in the pull process. We also find that in the extreme case, molecular junctions can be formed only in the push process that is typically ignored. Our findings demonstrate that tracking the two inverse processes of molecular junction formation, reveals a more comprehensive picture of the variety of molecular configurations in molecular junctions.
Through a combination of atomistic spin-lattice dynamics simulations and relativistic ab initio calculations of electronic transport we shed light on unexplained electrical measurements in nickel nanocontacts created by break junction experiments under cryogenic conditions (4.2 K). We implement post-self-consistent-field corrections in the conductance calculations to account for spin-orbit coupling and the noncollinearity of the spins, resulting from the spin-lattice dynamics. We find that transverse magnetic domain walls are formed preferentially in (111)-oriented face-centered-cubic nickel atomic-sized contacts, which also form elongated constrictions, giving rise to enhanced individual domain wall magnetoresistance. Our calculations show that the ambiguity surrounding the conductance of a priori uniformly magnetized nickel nanocontacts can be traced back to the crystallographic orientation of the nanocontacts, rather than spontaneously formed magnetic domain walls "pinned"at their narrowest points.
The thermodynamic uncertainty relation (TUR), a trade-off relation between thermodynamic cost (entropy production) and precision (fluctuations), is expected to hold in nanoscale electronic conductors, when the electron transport process is quantum coherent and the transmission probability is constant (energy and voltage independent). We present measurements of the electron current and its noise in gold atomic-scale junctions and confirm the validity of the TUR for electron transport in realistic quantum coherent conductors. Furthermore, we show that it is beneficial to present the current and its noise as a TUR ratio to identify deviations from noninteracting-electron coherent dynamics.
Key spin transport phenomena, including magnetoresistance and spin transfer torque, cannot be activated without spin-polarized currents, in which one electron spin is dominant. At the nanoscale, the relevant length-scale for modern spintronics, spin current generation is rather limited due to unwanted contributions from poorly spin-polarized frontier states in ferromagnetic electrodes, or too short length-scales for efficient spin splitting by spin-orbit interaction and magnetic fields. Here, we show that spin-polarized currents can be generated in silver-vanadocene-silver single molecule junctions without magnetic components or magnetic fields. In some cases, the measured spin currents approach the limit of ideal ballistic spin transport. Comparison between conductance and shot-noise measurements to detailed calculations reveals a mechanism based on spin-dependent quantum interference that yields very efficient spin filtering. Our findings pave the way for nanoscale spintronics based on quantum interference, with the advantages of low sensitivity to decoherence effects and the freedom to use non-magnetic materials.
Fluctuations pose fundamental limitations in making sensitive measurements, yet at the same time, noise unravels properties that are inaccessible at the level of the averaged signal. In electronic devices, shot noise arises from the discrete nature of charge carriers, and it increases linearly with averaged current (or applied bias for ohmic conductors) according to the celebrated Schottky formula. Nonetheless, measurements of shot noise in atomic-scale junctions at high voltage reveal significant nonlinear (anomalous) behavior, which varies from sample to sample, and has no specific trend. Here, we provide a viable, unifying explanation for these diverse observations based on the theory of quantum coherent transport. Our formula for the anomalous shot noise relies on-and allows us to resolve-two key characteristics of a conducting junction: The structure of the transmission function at the vicinity of the Fermi energy and the asymmetry of the bias voltage drop at the contacts. We test our theory on high voltage shot noise measurements on Au atomic scale junctions and demonstrate a quantitative agreement, recovering both the enhancement and suppression of shot noise as observed in different junctions. The good theory-experiment correspondence supports our modeling and emphasizes that the asymmetry of the bias drop on the contacts is a key factor in nanoscale electronic transport, which may substantially impact electronic signals even in incomplex structures.
Since the discovery a century ago(1-3) of electronic thermal noise and shot noise, these forms of fundamental noise have had an enormous impact on science and technology research and applications. They can be used to probe quantum effects and thermodynamic quantities(4-11), but they are also regarded as undesirable in electronic devices because they obscure the target signal. Electronic thermal noise is generated at equilibrium at finite (non-zero) temperature, whereas electronic shot noise is a non-equilibrium current noise that is generated by partial transmission and reflection (partition) of the incoming electrons(8). Until now, shot noise has been stimulated by a voltage, either applied directly(8) or activated by radiation(12,13). Here we report measurements of a fundamental electronic noise that is generated by temperature differences across nanoscale conductors, which we term 'delta-T noise'. We experimentally demonstrate this noise in atomic and molecular junctions, and analyse it theoretically using the Landauer formalism(8,14). Our findings show that delta-T noise is distinct from thermal noise and voltage-activated shot noise(8). Like thermal noise, it has a purely thermal origin, but delta-T noise is generated only out of equilibrium. Delta-T noise and standard shot noise have the same partition origin, but are activated by different stimuli. We infer that delta-T noise in combination with thermal noise can be used to detect temperature differences across nanoscale conductors without the need to fabricate sophisticated local probes. Thus it can greatly facilitate the study of heat transport at the nanoscale. In the context of modern electronics, temperature differences are often generated unintentionally across electronic components. Taking into account the contribution of delta-T noise in these cases is likely to be essential for the design of efficient nanoscale electronics at the quantum limit.
Single-molecule junctions are versatile test beds for electronic transport at the atomic scale. However, not much is known about the early formation steps of such junctions. Here, we study the electronic transport properties of premature junction configurations before the realization of a single-molecule bridge based on vanadocene molecules and silver electrodes. With the aid of conductance measurements, inelastic electron spectroscopy and shot noise analysis, we identify the formation of a single-molecule junction in parallel to a single-atom junction and examine the interplay between these two conductance pathways. Furthermore, the role of this structure in the formation of single-molecule junctions is studied. Our findings reveal the conductance and structural properties of premature molecular junction configurations and uncover the different scenarios in which a single-molecule junction is formed. Future control over such processes may pave the way for directed formation of preferred junction structures.
Revealing the mechanisms of electronic transport through metal-molecule interfaces is of central importance for a variety of molecule-based devices. A key method for understanding these mechanisms is based on the study of conductance versus molecule length in molecular junctions. However, previous works focused on transport governed either by coherent tunnelling or hopping, both at low conductance. Here, we study the upper limit of conductance across metal-molecule-metal interfaces. Using highly conducting single-molecule junctions based on oligoacenes with increasing length, we find that the conductance saturates at an upper limit where it is independent of molecule length. With the aid of two prototype systems, in which the molecules are contacted by either Ag or Pt electrodes, we find two different possible origins for conductance saturation. The results are explained by an intuitive model, backed by ab initio calculations. Our findings shed light on the mechanisms that constrain the conductance of metal-molecule interfaces at the high-transmission limit.
Molecular junctions based on ferromagnetic electrodes allow the study of electronic spin transport near the limit of spintronics miniaturization. However, these junctions reveal moderate magnetoresistance that is sensitive to the orbital structure at their ferromagnet-molecule interfaces. The key structural parameters that should be controlled in order to gain high magnetoresistance have not been established, despite their importance for efficient manipulation, of spin transport at the nanoscale. Here, we show that single-molecule junctions based on nickel electrodes and benzene molecules can yield a significant anisotropic magnetoresistance of up to similar to 200% near the conductance quantum Go. The measured magnetoresistance is mechanically tuned by changing the distance between the electrodes, revealing a nonmonotonic response to junction elongation. These findings are ascribed with the aid of first-principles calculations to variations in the metal-molecule orientation that can be adjusted to obtain highly spin-selective orbital hybridization. Our results demonstrate the important role of geometrical considerations in determining the spin transport properties of metal-molecule interfaces.
With the goal of elucidating the nature of spin-dependent electronic transport in ferromagnetic atomic contacts, we present here a combined experimental and theoretical study of the conductance and shot noise of metallic atomic contacts made of the 3d ferromagnetic materials Fe, Co, and Ni. For comparison, we also present the corresponding results for the noble metal Cu. Conductance and shot noise measurements, performed using a low-temperature break-junction setup, show that in these ferromagnetic nanowires, (i) there is no conductance quantization of any kind, (ii) transport is dominated by several partially open conduction channels, even in the case of single-atom contacts, and (iii) the Fano factor of large contacts saturates to values that clearly differ from those of monovalent (nonmagnetic) metals. We rationalize these observations with the help of a theoretical approach that combines molecular dynamics simulations to describe the junction formation with nonequilibrium Green's function techniques to compute the transport properties within the Landauer-Buttiker framework. Our theoretical approach successfully reproduces all the basic experimental results and it shows that all the observations can be traced back to the fact that the d bands of the minority-spin electrons play a fundamental role in the transport through ferromagnetic atomic-size contacts. These d bands give rise to partially open conduction channels for any contact size, which in turn lead naturally to the different observations described above. Thus, the transport picture for these nanoscale ferromagnetic wires that emerges from the ensemble of our results is clearly at variance with the well established conduction mechanism that governs the transport in macroscopic ferromagnetic wires, where the d bands are responsible for the magnetism but do not take part in the charge flow. These insights provide a fundamental framework for ferromagnetic-based spintronics at the nanoscale.
The vibration-mediated Kondo effect attracted considerable theoretical interest during the last decade. However, due to lack of extensive experimental demonstrations, the fine details of the phenomenon were not addressed. Here, we analyze the evolution of vibration-mediated Kondo effect in molecular junctions during mechanical stretching. The described analysis reveals the different contributions of Kondo and inelastic transport.
Generating highly spin-polarized currents at the nanoscale is essential for spin current manipulations and spintronic applications. We find indications for up to 100% spin-polarized currents across nickel oxide atomic junctions formed between two nickel electrodes. The degree of spin polarization is probed by analyzing the shot noise resulting from the discrete statistics of spin-polarized electron transport. We show that spin filtering can be significantly enhanced by local chemical modifications at the single-atom level. This approach paves the way for effective manipulations of spin transport at the fundamental limit of miniaturization.
The interaction of individual electrons with vibrations has been extensively studied. However, the nature of electron-vibration interaction in the presence of many-body electron correlations such as a Kondo state has not been fully investigated. Here, we present transport measurements on a Copper-phthalocyanine molecule, suspended between two silver electrodes in a break-junction setup. Our measurements reveal both zero bias and satellite conductance peaks, which are identified as Kondo resonances with a similar Kondo temperature. The relation of the satellite peaks to electron-vibration interaction is corroborated using several independent spectroscopic indications, as well as ab initio calculations. Further analysis reveals that the contribution of vibration-induced inelastic current is significant in the presence of a Kondo resonance.
We investigate periodical oscillations in the conductance of suspended Au and Pt atomic chains during elongation under mechanical stress. Analysis of conductance and shot noise measurements reveals that the oscillations are mainly related to variations in a specific conduction channel as the chain undergoes transitions between zigzag and linear atomic configurations. The calculated local electronic structure shows that the oscillations originate from varying degrees of hybridization between the atomic orbitals along the chain as a function of the zigzag angle. These variations are highly dependent on the directionally and symmetry of the relevant orbitals, in agreement with the order-of-magnitude difference between the Pt and Au oscillation amplitudes observed in experiment. Our results demonstrate that the sensitivity of conductance to structural variations can be controlled by designing atomic-scale conductors in view of the directional interactions between atomic orbitals.
The effect of electron-vibration interaction in atomic-scale junctions with a single conduction channel was widely investigated both theoretically and experimentally. However, the more general case of junctions with several conduction channels has received very little attention. Here we study electron-vibration interaction in multichannel molecular junctions, formed by introduction of either benzene or carbon dioxide between platinum electrodes. By combining shot noise and differential conductance measurements, we analyze the effect of vibration activation on conductance in view of the distribution of conduction channels. Based on the shift of vibration energy while the junction is stretched, we identify vibration modes with transverse and longitudinal symmetry. The detection of different vibration modes is ascribed to efficient vibration coupling to different conduction channels according to symmetry considerations. While most of our observations can be explained in view of the theoretical models for a single conduction channel, the appearance of conductance enhancement, induced by electron-vibration interaction, at high conductance values indicates either unexpected high electron-vibration coupling or interchannel scattering.
Pt is known to show spontaneous formation of monatomic chains upon breaking a metallic contact. From model calculations, these chains are expected to be spin polarized. However, direct experimental evidence for or against magnetism is lacking. Here, we investigate shot noise as a potential source of information on the magnetic state of Pt atomic chains. We observe a remarkable structure in the distribution of measured shot-noise levels, where the data appear to be confined to the region of nonmagnetic states. While this suggests a nonmagnetic ground state for the Pt atomic chains, from calculations we find that the magnetism in Pt chains is due to "actor" electron channels, which contribute very little to ballistic conductance and noise. On the other hand, there are weakly polarized "spectator" channels, which carry most of the current and are only slightly modified by the magnetic state.
We demonstrate a general procedure for determining the conduction channels of quantum conductors from shot noise measurements. This numerical approach allows multichannel analysis which was previously limited to superconductors. Channel analysis of Ag and Au atomic contacts reveals a remarkable behavior in which the channels fully open one by one with increasing conductance. These results allow us to unambiguously distinguish between free-electron and tight-binding descriptions for the conductance of monovalent contacts. Furthermore, the channel resolution uncovers the presence of tunneling channels in parallel to the conductance through the main contact and provides a means for distinguishing between the contact conductance and tunneling contributions. Finally, unique channel distributions were found for Al and Pt contacts reflecting their distinct valence orbital structures.
Using a break junction technique, we find a dear signature for the formation of conducting hybrid junctions composed of a single organic molecule (benzene, naphthalene, or anthracene) connected to chains of platinum atoms. The hybrid junctions exhibit metallic-like conductance (similar to 0.1-1G(0)), which is rather insensitive to further elongation by additional atoms. At low bias voltage the hybrid junctions can be elongated significantly beyond the length of the bare atomic chains. Ab initio calculations reveal that benzene based hybrid junctions have a significant binding energy and high structural flexibility that may contribute to the survival of the hybrid junction during the elongation process. The fabrication of hybrid junctions opens the way for combining the different properties of atomic chains and organic molecules to realize a new class of atomic scale interfaces.
For the study of junctions formed by single molecules shot noise offers interesting new information that cannot be easily obtained by other means. At low bias it allows, for some cases of interest, determining the transmission probability and the number of current carrying conductance channels. By this method it is possible to identify the cross-over in sign of the inelastic scattering signal in the differential conductance. This is a first step towards the study of inelastic scattering signals in shot noise, as the second moment of the current.
The simplicity of single-molecule junctions based on direct bonding of a small molecule between two metallic electrodes makes them an ideal system for the study of fundamental questions related to molecular electronics. Here we study the conductance properties of six different types of molecules by suspending individual molecules between Pt electrodes. All the molecular junctions show a typical conductance of about 1G(0) which is ascribed to the dominant role of the Pt contacts. However, despite the metalliclike conductivity, the individual molecular signature is well expressed by the effect of molecular vibrations in the inelastic contribution to the conductance.
Point contact spectroscopy on a H(2)O molecule bridging Pt electrodes reveals a clear crossover between enhancement and reduction of the conductance due to electron-vibration interaction. As single-channel models predict such a crossover at a transmission probability of tau=0.5, we used shot noise measurements to analyze the transmission and observed at least two channels across the junction where the dominant channel has a tau=0.51 +/- 0.01 transmission probability at the crossover conductance, which is consistent with the predictions for single-channel models.
We present the Kelvin probe force microscopy measurements of the Einstein relation, i.e., the relation between the diffusion coefficient of charge carriers and their mobility, in undoped and doped disordered organic thin films. The theoretical prediction of a large deviation of the Einstein relation from its classical value is verified and attributed to the energy distribution of the density of states. The results are explained in the context of degeneracy effects on the transport in disordered organic thin films, and their implications for organic-based devices are discussed.
We report on high-resolution electronic measurements of doped organic thin-film transistors using Kelvin probe force microscopy. Measurements conducted on field effect transistors made of N,N-I-diphenyl- N, N-I-bis(1-naphthyl)-1,1(I)-biphenyl-4,4(I)-diamine p-doped with tetrafluoro-tetracyanoquinodimethane have allowed us to determine the rich structure of the doping-induced density of states. In addition, the doping process changes only slightly the Fermi energy position with respect to the highest occupied molecular orbital level center. The moderate change is explained by two counter-acting effects on the Fermi energy position: the doping-induced additional charge and the broadening of the density of states.
The potential across an organic thin-film transistor is measured by Kelvin probe force microscopy and is used to determine directly the pinch-off voltage at different gate voltages. These measurements lead to the determination of a generalized threshold voltage, which corresponds to molecular level shift as a function of the gate voltage. A comparison between measured and calculated threshold voltage reveals a deviation from a simple Gaussian distribution of the transport density of states available for holes. (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics.
We investigate the density of states (DOS) for hole transport in undoped and doped amorphous organic films using high lateral resolution Kelvin probe force microscopy. Measurements are done on field effect transistors made of N,N-I-diphenyl-N, N-I-bis(1-naphthyl)-1,10-biphenyl-4,4(II)-diamine undoped or p doped with tetrafluoro-tetracyanoquinodimethane. We determine the DOS structure of the undoped material, including an anomalous peak related to interfaces between regions of different surface potential, the DOS doping-induced broadening, and doping-induced sharp peaks on the main DOS distribution.
Kelvin probe force microscopy was used for extraction of the threshold and the pinch off voltages in organic thin film transistors. The first was determined by direct detection of the charge accumulation onset and the latter by a direct observation of the pinch off region formation. In addition, an effective threshold voltage shift can be extracted from the pinch-off voltage as a function of charge concentration. The dependence of the effective threshold voltage on the gate voltage must be considered when calculating charge carrier concentrations in organic thin film transistors.
We report on high-resolution potential measurements across complete metal/organic molecular semiconductor/metal structures using Kelvin probe force microscopy in inert atmosphere. It is found that the potential distribution at the metal/organic interfaces is in agreement with an interfacial abrupt potential changes and the work function of the different metals. The potential distribution across the organic layer strongly depends on its purification. In pure Alq(3) the potential profile is flat, while in nonpurified layers there is substantial potential bending probably due to the presence of deep traps. The effect of the measuring tip is calculated and discussed. (C) 2004 American Institute of Physics.
We explore the possibility of controlling electronic properties along an inorganic nanotube (INT) through the influence of nanometer-scale features in the underlying substrate. We examined single multi-walled WS2 INTs using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) in high vacuum. As long as the INTs He flat on MoS2 (0 0 0 1) or graphite (0 0 0 1) surfaces, they appear semimetallic. However, when the INT is suspended above the surface due to crossing steps or other nanotubes, a band gap opens up. We discuss this observation in terms of either a potential drop under the INT, or a change in its electronic properties due to its distortion when it lies flat on a surface. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.