Nanoelectronics – theory and simulation


S. Ulstrup, T. Frederiksen, and M. Brandbyge,
Nonequilibrium electron-vibration coupling and conductance fluctuations in a C60-junction
Phys. Rev. B 86, 245417 (2012) [arXiv:1209.5644]

We investigate chemical bond formation and conductance in a molecular C60 junction under finite bias voltage using first-principles calculations based on density functional theory and nonequilibrium Green's functions (DFT-NEGF). At the point of contact formation we identify a remarkably strong coupling between the C60 motion and the molecular electronic structure. This is only seen for positive sample bias, although the conductance itself is not strongly polarity dependent. The nonequilibrium effect is traced back to a sudden shift in the position of the voltage drop with a small C60 displacement. Combined with a vibrational heating mechanism we construct a model from our results that explain the polarity-dependent two-level conductance fluctuations observed in recent scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) experiments [N. Néel et al., Nano Lett. 11, 3593 (2011)]. These findings highlight the significance of nonequilibrium effects in chemical bond formation/breaking and in electron-vibration coupling in molecular electronics.

Y. Kim, A. Garcia-Lekue, D. Sysoiev, T. Frederiksen, U. Groth, and E. Scheer,
Charge transport in azobenzene-based single-molecule junctions
Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 226801 (2012)

Azobenzene-derivative molecules change their conformation as a result of a cis-trans transition when exposed to ultraviolet or visible light irradiation and this is expected to induce a significant variation in the conductance of molecular devices. Despite extensive investigations carried out on this type of molecule, a detailed understanding of the charge transport for the two isomers is still lacking. We report a combined experimental and theoretical analysis of electron transport through azobenzene-derivative single-molecule break junctions with Au electrodes. Current-voltage and inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy (IETS) measurements performed at 4.2 K are interpreted based on first-principles calculations of electron transmission and IETS spectra. This qualitative study unravels the origin of a slightly higher conductance of junctions with the cis isomer and demonstrates that IETS spectra of cis and trans forms show distinct vibrational fingerprints that can be used for identifying the isomer.

R. Avriller, and T. Frederiksen,
Inelastic shot noise characteristics of nanoscale junctions from first principles
Phys. Rev. B 86, 155411 (2012) [arXiv:1209.3599]

We describe an implementation of ab initio methodology to compute inelastic shot noise signals due to electron-vibration scattering in nanoscale junctions. The method is based on the framework of nonequilibrium Keldysh Green's functions with a description of electronic structure and nuclear vibrations from density functional theory. Our implementation is illustrated with simulations of electron transport in Au and Pt atomic point contacts. We show that the computed shot noise characteristics of the Au contacts can be understood in terms of a simple two-site tight-binding model representing the two apex atoms of the vibrating nanojunction. We also show that the shot noise characteristics of Pt contacts exhibit more complex features associated with inelastic interchannel scattering. These inelastic noise features are shown to provide additional information about the electron-phonon coupling and the multichannel structure of Pt contacts than what is readily derived from the corresponding conductance characteristics. We finally analyze a set of Au atomic chains of different lengths and strain conditions and provide a quantitative comparison with the recent shot noise experiments reported by Kumar et al. [Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 146602 (2012)].

N. Hauptmann, F. Mohn, L. Gross, G. Meyer, T. Frederiksen, and R. Berndt,
Force and conductance during contact formation to a C60 molecule
New J. Phys. 14, 073032 (2012) [arXiv:1208.2791]

Force and conductance were simultaneously measured during the formation of Cu-C60 and C60-C60 contacts using a combined cryogenic scanning tunneling and atomic force microscope. The contact geometry was controlled with submolecular resolution. The maximal attractive forces measured for the two types of junctions were found to differ significantly. We show that the previously reported values of the contact conductance correspond to the junction being under maximal tensile stress.

T. Kumagai, A. Shiotari, H. Okuyama, S. Hatta, T. Aruga, I. Hamada, T. Frederiksen, and H. Ueba,
H-atom relay reactions in real space
Nature Materials 11, 167-172 (2012) [ PDF ] [ Suppl. ]

Hydrogen bonds are the path through which protons and hydrogen atoms can be transferred between molecules. The relay mechanism, in which H-atom transfer occurs in a sequential fashion along hydrogen bonds, plays an essential role in many functional compounds. Here we use the scanning tunnelling microscope to construct and operate a test-bed for real-space observation of H-atom relay reactions at a single-molecule level. We demonstrate that the transfer of H-atoms along hydrogen-bonded chains assembled on a Cu(110) surface is controllable and reversible, and is triggered by excitation of molecular vibrations induced by inelastic tunnelling electrons. The experimental findings are rationalized by ab initio calculations for adsorption geometry, active vibrational modes and reaction pathway, to reach a detailed microscopic picture of the elementary processes.