Weak competing interactions control assembly of strongly bonded TCNQ ionic acceptor molecules on silver surfaces

Changwon Park, Geoffrey A. Rojas, Seokmin Jeon, Simon J. Kelly, Sean C. Smith, Bobby G. Sumpter, Mina Yoon, Petro Maksymovych

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12 Scopus citations


The energy scales of interactions that control molecular adsorption and assembly on surfaces can vary by several orders of magnitude, yet the importance of each contributing interaction is not apparent a priori. Tetracyanoquinodimethane (TCNQ) is an archetypal electron acceptor molecule and it is a key component of organic metals. On metal surfaces, this molecule also acts as an electron acceptor, producing negatively charged adsorbates. It is therefore rather intriguing to observe attractive molecular interactions in this system that were reported previously for copper and silver surfaces. Our experiments compared TCNQ adsorption on noble metal surfaces of Ag(100) and Ag(111). In both cases we found net attractive interactions down to the lowest coverage. However, the morphology of the assemblies was strikingly different, with two-dimensional islands on Ag(100) and one-dimensional chains on Ag(111) surfaces. This observation suggests that the registry effect governed by the molecular interaction with the underlying lattice potential is critical in determining the dimensionality of the molecular assembly. Using first-principles density functional calculations with a van der Waals correction scheme, we revealed that the strengths of major interactions (i.e., lattice potential corrugation, intermolecular attraction, and charge-transfer-induced repulsion) are all similar in energy. The van der Waals interactions, in particular, almost double the strength of attractive interactions, making the intermolecular potential comparable in strength to the diffusion potential and promoting self-assembly. However, it is the anisotropy of local intermolecular interactions that is primarily responsible for the difference in the topology of the molecular islands on Ag(100) and Ag(111) surfaces. We anticipate that the intermolecular potential will become more attractive and dominant over the diffusion potential with increasing molecular size, providing new design strategies for the structure and charge transfer within molecular layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125432
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 19 2014

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© 2014 American Physical Society.


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