Constructing low-dimensional covalent assemblies through tailored dimension and also connectivity is complicated yet frequently crucial for applications in molecular electronics where optical and also electronic properties of the quantum products are extremely structure dependent. We existing a functional method for building such frameworks block by block on bilayer sodium chloride (NaCl) movies on Cu(111) via the reminder of an atomic force microscope, while tracking the structural alters via single-bond resolution. Covalent homo-dimers in cis and trans configurations and also homo-/hetero-trimers were selectively synthesized by a sequence of dehalogecountry, translational manipulation and intermolecular coupling of halogenated precursors. More demonstrations of structural accumulation encompass facility bonding motifs, favor carbon–iodine–carbon bonds and foffered carbon pentagons. This job-related paves the way for manufacturing elusive covalent nanoarchitectures, researching structural modifications and revealing pathmethods of intermolecular reactions.

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The vision of assembling nanoarchitectures by regulated mechanical manipulation on an atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule basis has actually been a dream because its creation by R. Feynguy and also ultimately caused the area of nanoinnovation. Inspired by this, K. E. Drexler proposed the conceptual idea of molecular machines that would be qualified of placing reactants through atomic precision in order to guide chemical reactions, an concept that was greatly discussed regarding its realizability1. The main counter discussion presented is that the ‘fingers’ essential for orienting the atoms or molecules would certainly be too ‘fat’ and also also ‘sticky’ to perdevelop fully controlled synthesis1.

However before, alengthy these lines, the two-dimensional confinement of a surconfront deserve to undertake the job of such fingers; that is, it have the right to be exploited for aligning the reactants. This concept initiated the new field of on-surchallenge synthesis, which allowed forming unmatched molecular architectures and also is steadily on the rise2,3,4. In this way, the molecular framework and also hence the mechanical, optical and electrical properties of low-dimensional nanoarchitectures can be controlled5,6,7,8,9,10. For instance, graphene nanoribbons or π-conjugated polymers can be equipped through topological states11,12,13 or metallicity14 by presenting non-trivial structural adjustments. Thstormy chemical design philosophies, single-molecule tools have actually been produced on surdeals with that show reversible photoswitching15 or tunable electroluminescence16 or that might be used for spintronic applications17.

The synthesis of such tailored materials is generally lugged out on a metal surface by thermal activation, wherein the reaction selectivity and outcome are affected by various factors, such as thermodynamics and kinetics, the activating teams of the precursors and also the catalyst and also template impact of the substrates. By contrast, scanning probe manipulation can stop these obstacles by electrically triggering the chemical transformation of individual molecules by means of the guideline of a scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) or atomic force microscopy (AFM) instrument18,19,20,21. However, tip-induced intermolecular coupling is still very complex because of the poorly regulated alignment of the molecules and also the strong chemical interactions between the molecules and the metal surfaces21. A few effective cases were achieved in distinct problems where the molecules were constrained in a two-dimensional molecular island22 or at the step edges of a metal surface23.

In this examine, we revisit Feynman’s and Drexler’s visions and also use the STM guideline and also the terraces of NaCl thin movies as ‘non-fat and also non-sticky fingers’ for covalently connecting different molecular structure blocks using regulated manipulations (Fig. 1). The outcome of the sequential reaction steps can be conveniently followed by visual inspection through high-resolution low-temperature AFM through CO-functionalized tips24, which allows the identification of the chemical frameworks of the precursors, intermediates and also products25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33.


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Voltage pulses applied between the STM pointer and the sample are used for inducing the dehalogenation of the precursors (Step 1, shown by purple and orange stars), the transfer of the adsorbed radicals (Step 2) and the succeeding cross-/homo-coupling of the individual structure blocks (Tip 3). The gap voltage, Vg, is used to the surchallenge, while the STM guideline is grounded.


As a proof of principle, two different molecular structure blocks have actually been preferred and selectively linked regulating the chemo-, site- and also regio-selectivity and also the two-dimensional stereoselectivity. The controllability and also the liberty of design are demonstrated by selective bond formation of triphenylene and also pyrene structure blocks. These compounds have been preferred because they are structurally similar, both possess four benzene systems and they can be easily analysed by AFM. This way, the selective synthesis of triphenylene dimers in cis and trans configurations (consisting of both trans mirror types) and also pyrene homo-trimer and also triphenylene/pyrene hetero-trimers by means of a cross-coupling reaction was completed. The development of cis and trans connections via thermal activation on steel substrates, yet, counts strongly on the substprice product, molecular flux and reactivity kinetics and is therefore not completely controllable34. The realization of a selective cross-coupling reaction of 2 different partners is especially tough to steer also for connecting just two molecular building blocks. For example, Lewis et al. accomplished a maximum selectivity of 50% towards cross-coupling by utilizing thermally triggered Ullmann coupling35. Furthermore, other facility bonding motifs such as a carbon–iodine–carbon connection as well as fsupplied carbon pentagons have actually been mounted in a controlled manner.

Our approach allows the bottom-up engineering of elusive organic nanoarchitectures with atomic precision. In addition, it enables studying the pathmeans of intermolecular reactions in between fragrant carbon radicals by molecular manipulation. Ultimately, it paves the means for systematically examining the effects of structural changes on the properties of organic products, which is crucial for knowledge and also regulating molecular use.


In our research, 2-iodotriphenylene (IT) and 2,7-dibromopyrene (DBP) as founding materials were adsorbed on bilayer (2 ML) NaCl films supported by a Cu(111) surface. All experiments were performed via an STM/AFM instrument at 5.2 K under ultra-high vacuum (Methods). Sequential local voltage pulses were offered to induce activation of the precursors (dehalogenation), movement to bring intermediates right into proximity (translational and rotational manipulation of the radicals) and also lastly, intermolecular coupling of the building blocks. In specific, the last 2 reaction procedures are promoted by the decoupling of reenergetic intermediates from the metal surdeals with by NaCl thin films.

First, the mono-halogenated aromatic compound IT was explored. After deplace, we observed individual molecules (Fig. 2a) and also noncovalently assembled clusters of IT (Supplementary Figs. 1 and also 2). The 2 pristine IT molecules appear in Fig. 2a as if they were bisected. This is caused by slight rotations of the intact IT approximately its I atom, which adsorbs cshed to a Na optimal website and also acts as a pivot point for the rotation (Supplementary Fig. 3). Similar molecular motions between different adsorption positions in the time of imaging have been observed for different compounds on various substrates29,36,37. The unsteady adsorption likewise suggests a low diffusion barrier of pristine IT on NaCl(2 ML)/Cu(111), which allows its lateral manipulation (Supplementary Fig. 4) based on inelastic excitation38,39.


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ac, Constant-height AFM frequency shift (Δf) imperiods of two pristine IT molecules (a) and also the adsorbed T• radicals prior to (b) and also after (c) removing the surrounding iodine atoms. d,e, AFM imperiods of a trans isomer (d) and also a cis isomer (e) of TT developed by tip-induced homo-coupling of 2 T• radicals. f, AFM photo of an iodine-bridged triphenylene dimer TIT. Chemical structures are presented below the equivalent AFM imperiods. The freshly formed radicals and also bonds are indicated by red dots and also lines, respectively. The images are built up from various series. The detailed manipulation processes for the assets in df can be discovered in Supplementary Figs. 10, 12 and also 16, respectively. Tip–substprice distance offset Δz = 120 pm (a), 100 pm (b), 110 pm (c), 70 pm (d,e) and also 90 pm (f), family member to STM collection points of 500 mV, 2 pA (ac), 500 mV, 1.5 pA (d,e) and also 500 mV, 1.3 pA (f). Scale bars, 1 nm for all AFM imperiods.


The deiodicountry of the IT molecules was triggered by short (10–100 ms) voltage pulses through a sample predisposition voltage of around 2.0 V and deactivated tip–sample feedago (Supplementary Information)18,29,40. Before, the steel reminder was placed above the centre of the molecule with a STM collection allude of typically 200–500 mV and 2 pA. After deiodination, triphenylene radicals (T•) were generated, and also the dissociated iodine atoms were typically discovered in their cshed vicinity (Fig. 2b). The iodine atoms deserve to be deliberately rerelocated by vertical manipulation if essential (Methods and Fig. 2c).

Unprefer the chemically adsorbed radicals on steel surdeals with, which possess strongly deformed adsorption conformations since their radical positions are pointing towards the surface (Supplementary Fig. 5)29, the radicals on NaCl(2 ML)/Cu(111) are rather planar18. This alignment of the set off sites in the molecular airplane is favourable for the succeeding intermolecular coupling. We observed two kinds of adsorption claims of the radical T• that are delisted as free and bound says because of their different mobilities. The radical can be switched back and also forth in between these claims by inelastic molecular excitations41 (Supplementary Figs. 6 and also 7). The totally free state is as well mobile for steady imaging, while the chemical structure of the bound state deserve to be refixed by STM and also AFM (Fig. 2c and Supplementary Fig. 6). The radicals T• dominantly exist in the bound state.

In agreement with previous reports about charged states of, for example, Au atoms and pentacene molecules on NaCl layers42,43, the lateral and also vertical shifts of the Kelvin probe parabolas that correspond to the totally free and also bound states of the T• radicals (Supplementary Fig. 7 and also Supplementary Information) imply that these are negatively charged in the bound state and neutral in the totally free state. However before, an unambiguous identification of the charge states would certainly call for wide-range frequency shift vs. voltage <Δf(V)> spectra (for instance, −1.0 V to 2.0 V) that expose the charging and also discharging processes43. In our case, this might not be completed given that the molecules shift/turn ameans from the pointer throughout the spectroscopy measurements as a result of their high mobility. Additional details around the findings after repositioning the molecules, which are valuable for rationalizing the charging and also discharging procedures of the T• and bromopyrene (BP•) monoradicals, have the right to be uncovered in the Supplementary Indevelopment.

The regulated lateral manipulation of T•, which is important for selective coupling, was realized by voltage pulses (2.0 V, 20 ms, via metal or iodine tip) or tip–molecule forces (Supplementary Figs. 8 and also 9). The tip was placed at the edge of the molecule in order to pull it in the direction of the pointer, as observed prior to for pentacene and 4NCuPc on NaCl(2 ML)/Cu(111) (ref. 38).

The intermolecular bond developing process in between 2 adjacent T• radicals was induced by one or more voltage pulses (2.0 V, 20–100 ms, metal or iodine tip). By picking 2 molecules through a identified adsorption conformation (the same or the oppowebsite on-surface handedness; Supplementary Fig. 2), we deserve to deliberately create 2,2′-bitriphenylene (TT) in trans and cis configurations (Fig. 2d,e; also Supplementary Figs. 10–12 for comprehensive procedures), which is not totally controlled via thermally triggered on-surface synthesis34. The 2 versions of trans-TT via opposite on-surchallenge handedness were also selectively produced (Supplementary Figs. 10 and also 11). This would be a really tough job for thermally caused philosophies. The covalent connectivity of the assets was confirmed by molecular manipulation, high-resolution STM/AFM imaging and also bond-length measurements (Supplementary Figs. 13–15 and also Supplementary Information).

We rationalize the development of the new C–C bond as a result of a head-on collision of the 2 radical positions throughout the translational and rotational activities of the 2 nearby molecules induced by the last voltage pulse. Please note that the voltage-pulse-induced rotations of the molecules are relatively random compared through translations. Depfinishing on the relative orientation and distance between the two molecules, various numbers of pulses (one to ten) are compelled to reason the precise collision of the two radical positions and the overlap of their half-filled sp2 orbitals to develop a C–C sigma bond. It is unimportant to perfectly align the radicals in their static state and often impossible as a result of the preferential adsorption orientation and place of each molecule on NaCl surfaces. In our experiments, the distance in between the centres of 2 molecules was on average 1.1 ± 0.2 nm from wbelow a bond development was achieved by the final voltage pulse.

Interestingly, the freshly developed single C–C bond of the various TT molecules (red lines in Fig. 2d,e) shows up somewhat darker in the AFM frequency shift imperiods than the various other C–C bonds of the triphenylene backbones. This photo contrast is in great agreement via previous researches of TT molecules28, terphenyl derivates29 or nanographenes44 wbelow single C–C bonds additionally appear darker than bonds within the benzene rings. Presumably this is resulted in by the various bond orders of the respective bonds, which is famed to affect the frequency change contrast32,45,46. From this we rationalize that the reduced electron density of the freshly developed single C–C bond causes a reduced frequency change signal than the stronger C–C bonds inside the aromatic rings.

We additionally fabricated an iodine-bridged triphenylene dimer (TIT) featured via a C–I–C bond (Fig. 2f), which has actually, to the best of our expertise, not been oboffered by means of thermally set off on-surchallenge coupling. The bonding motif have the right to be realized by bond formation in between a T• radical and a pristine IT molecule (Supplementary Fig. 16). As revealed by Fig. 2f, the C–I–C connection is rather symmetric. Furthermore, it is fairly stable because it made it through a tip-induced rotation of the TIT dimer (Supplementary Fig. 16). Please note that multivalent iodine compounds have been established as steady and valuable compounds in organic synthesis47,48,49. Besides the classical oxidation state of (I) tright here are a plethora of hypervalent iodine compounds reported with iodine in the oxidation says (III) and (V). The formation of the C–I–C bond deserve to be rationalized by an strike of the carbon radical of a T• molecule on the iodine atom of a pristine IT molecule, resulting formally in an iodine(III)-analogous framework stabilized by the surchallenge. The linear plan hregarding be discussed in link with the molecule–surconfront interactions. A thorough analysis of this hitherto-not-reported bonding motif on surfaces is the topic of continuous studies in our laboratory.

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Extended covalent structures have the right to be developed by utilizing multi-halogenated precursors, shown by DBP (Fig. 3a). The Br atoms also adsorb cshed to the Na top sites (Supplementary Fig. 17), similar to the adsorption position of I atoms in the instance of IT molecules (Supplementary Fig. 3).