Local ionic and electron heating in single-molecule junctions

Abstract

A basic aim in molecular electronics is to understand transport through a single molecule connected to two electrodes. Substantial progress towards this goal has been made over the past decade as a result of advances in both experimental techniques and theoretical methods1,2,3. Nonetheless, a fundamental and technologically important issue, current-induced local heating of molecules4,5,6,7,8, has received much less attention. Here, we report on a combined experimental and theoretical study of local heating in single molecules (6-, 8- and 10-alkanedithiol) covalently attached to two gold electrodes as a function of applied bias and molecular length. We find that the effective local temperature of the molecular junction first increases with applied bias, and then decreases after reaching a maximum. At fixed bias, the effective temperature decreases with increasing molecular length. These experimental findings are in agreement with hydrodynamic predictions, which include both electron–phonon and electron–electron interactions7,9.

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Figure 1: Measurements of conductance and stretching distance of single n-alkanedithiol junctions.
Figure 2: Measurements of stretching distance and effective temperature of single n-alkanedithiol junctions (n = 6, 8, 10) at small voltage bias.
Figure 3: Measurements of stretching distance and effective temperature of single n-alkanedithiol (n = 6, 8, 10) junctions with increasing voltage bias.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the US National Science Foundation (ECS0304682, Z.F.H.), the US Department of Energy (DE-FG03-01ER45943, F.C. and Z.F.H.) and (DE-FG02-05ER46204, R.D.) for financial support.

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Contributions

Z.F.H. carried out the experiment and data analysis, F.C. assisted in the experiment, R.D. and M.D.V. worked out the theory and predicted local cooling, P.B. provided important comments and N.J.T. conceived the experiment.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Massimiliano Di Ventra or Nongjian Tao.

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Supplementary figures S1-S3 (PDF 934 kb)

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Huang, Z., Chen, F., D'agosta, R. et al. Local ionic and electron heating in single-molecule junctions. Nature Nanotech 2, 698–703 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2007.345

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