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Measurement of the conductance of a hydrogen molecule

Abstract

Recent years have shown steady progress towards molecular electronics1,2, in which molecules form basic components such as switches3,4,5, diodes6 and electronic mixers7. Often, a scanning tunnelling microscope is used to address an individual molecule, although this arrangement does not provide long-term stability. Therefore, metal–molecule–metal links using break-junction devices8,9,10 have also been explored; however, it is difficult to establish unambiguously that a single molecule forms the contact11. Here we show that a single hydrogen molecule can form a stable bridge between platinum electrodes. In contrast to results for organic molecules, the bridge has a nearly perfect conductance of one quantum unit, carried by a single channel. The hydrogen bridge represents a simple test system in which to understand fundamental transport properties of single-molecule devices.

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Figure 1: Conductance curves and histograms for clean Pt, and for Pt in a H2 atmosphere.
Figure 2: Differential conductance (top) and its derivative (bottom) for a Pt/H2 contact taken at a conductance plateau close to 1G0.
Figure 3: Vibration mode energies obtained from point contact spectra similar to that shown in Fig. 2.
Figure 4: Conductance histogram (black, left axis) and r.m.s. amplitude of the conductance fluctuations σGV (open squares, right axis) for a Pt/H2 sample.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge discussions with A. Levy Yeyati and S. K. Nielsen, and we thank D. Bakker and M. Pohlkamp for assistance in the experiments. C.U. and Y.N. were supported by European Community Marie Curie fellowships.

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Correspondence to J. M. van Ruitenbeek.

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Smit, R., Noat, Y., Untiedt, C. et al. Measurement of the conductance of a hydrogen molecule. Nature 419, 906–909 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01103

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