Direct detection by atomic force microscopy of single bond forces associated with the rupture of discrete charge-transfer complexes

Hjalti Skulason, C. Daniel Frisbie

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Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to measure the chemical binding force of discrete electron donor-acceptor complexes formed at the interface between proximal self-assembled monolayers (SAMs). Derivatives of the well-known electron donor N,N,N′,N′-tetramethylphenylenediamine (TMPD) and the electron acceptor 7,7,8,8-tetracyanoquinodimethane (TCNQ) were immobilized on Au-coated AFM tips and substrates by formation of SAMs of N,N,N′-trimethyI-N′-(10-thiodecyl)-1,4-phenylenediamine (I) and bis(10-(2-((2,5-cyclohexadiene-1,4-diylidene)dimalonitrile))decyl) disulfide (II), respectively. Pull-off forces between modified tips and substrates were measured under CHCI3 solvent. The mean pull-off forces associated with TMPD/TCNQ microcontacts were more than an order of magnitude larger than the pull-off forces for TMPD/TMPD and TCNQ/TCNQ microcontacts, consistent with the presence of specific charge-transfer interactions between proximal TMPD donors and TCNQ acceptors. Furthermore, histograms of pull-off forces for TMPD/TCNQ contacts displayed 70 ± 15 pN periodicity, assigned to the rupture of individual TMPD-TCNQ donor-acceptor (charge-transfer) complexes. Both the mean pull-off force and the 70 pN force quantum compare favorably with a contact mechanics model that incorporates the effects of discrete chemical bonds, solvent surface tensions, and random contact area variations in consecutive pull-offs. From the 70 pN force quantum, we estimate the single bond energy to be ∼4-5 kJ/mol, in reasonable agreement with thermodynamic data. These experiments establish that binding forces due to discrete chemical bonds can be detected directly in AFM pull-off measurements employing SAM modified probes and substrates. Because SAMs can be prepared with a wide range of exposed functional groups, pull-off measurements between SAM-coated tips and substrates may provide a general strategy for directly measuring binding forces associated with a variety of simple, discrete chemical bonds, e.g., single hydrogen bonds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15125-15133
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 18 2002


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