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Growth dynamics of pentacene thin films


The recent demonstration of single-crystal organic optoelectronic devices has received widespread attention1,2,3,4. But practical applications of such devices require the use of inexpensive organic films deposited on a wide variety of substrates. Unfortunately, the physical properties of these organic thin films do not compare favourably to those of single-crystal materials. Moreover, the basic physical principles governing organic thin-film growth and crystallization are not well understood. Here we report an in situ study of the evolution of pentacene thin films, utilizing the real-time imaging capabilities of photoelectron emission microscopy. By a combination of careful substrate preparation and surface energy control, we succeed in growing thin films with single-crystal grain sizes approaching 0.1 millimetre (a factor of 20–100 larger than previously achieved), which are large enough to fully contain a complete device. We find that organic thin-film growth closely mimics epitaxial growth of inorganic materials, and we expect that strategies and concepts developed for these inorganic systems will provide guidance for the further development and optimization of molecular thin-film devices.

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Figure 1: ac, Development of the pentacene layer-by-layer contrast during deposition.
Figure 2: Evolution of the dendritic shape of pentacene islands on cyclohexene-saturated Si(001).
Figure 3: Layer coverage of pentacene during deposition on different substrates.
Figure 4: Coverage-dependent fractal dimension of single-molecular-layer pentacene islands on cyclohexene-saturated Si(001).


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We thank J. Shaw and C. Dimitrakopoulos for discussions. F.M.z.H. was supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation under the Feodor-Lynen programme.

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Correspondence to Frank-J. Meyer zu Heringdorf.

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Meyer zu Heringdorf, FJ., Reuter, M. & Tromp, R. Growth dynamics of pentacene thin films. Nature 412, 517–520 (2001).

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