Article

Molecular rectifier composed of DNA with high rectification ratio enabled by intercalation

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Abstract

The predictability, diversity and programmability of DNA make it a leading candidate for the design of functional electronic devices that use single molecules, yet its electron transport properties have not been fully elucidated. This is primarily because of a poor understanding of how the structure of DNA determines its electron transport. Here, we demonstrate a DNA-based molecular rectifier constructed by site-specific intercalation of small molecules (coralyne) into a custom-designed 11-base-pair DNA duplex. Measured current–voltage curves of the DNA–coralyne molecular junction show unexpectedly large rectification with a rectification ratio of about 15 at 1.1 V, a counter-intuitive finding considering the seemingly symmetrical molecular structure of the junction. A non-equilibrium Green's function-based model—parameterized by density functional theory calculations—revealed that the coralyne-induced spatial asymmetry in the electron state distribution caused the observed rectification. This inherent asymmetry leads to changes in the coupling of the molecular HOMO−1 level to the electrodes when an external voltage is applied, resulting in an asymmetric change in transmission.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the US National Science Foundation for funding this work (ECCS 0823849 and ECCS 1231967).

Author information

Author notes

    • Cunlan Guo
    •  & Kun Wang

    These authors contributed equally to this work

Affiliations

  1. Single Molecule Study Laboratory, College of Engineering and Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA

    • Cunlan Guo
    • , Kun Wang
    • , Joseph Hamill
    • , Bin Wang
    •  & Bingqian Xu
  2. Department of Chemistry, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel

    • Elinor Zerah-Harush
    •  & Yonatan Dubi
  3. Ilse-Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel

    • Yonatan Dubi

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Contributions

B.X. conceived the experiment. C.G., K.W., J.H. and B.W. performed the experiment and analysed the data. Y.D. supervised the theoretical calculation. E.Z.-H. and Y.D. carried out the calculations. C.G., K.W., Y.D. and B.X. co-wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yonatan Dubi or Bingqian Xu.

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