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Journal Article

Switching of an Azobenzene-Tripod Molecule on Ag(111)

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Scheil, K., Gopakumar, T. G., Bahrenburg, J., Temps, F., Maurer, R. J., Reuter, K., et al. (2016). Switching of an Azobenzene-Tripod Molecule on Ag(111). The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 7(11), 2080-2084. doi:10.1021/acs.jpclett.6b01011.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-BB83-F
The trans–cis isomerization makes azobenzene (AB) a robust molecular switch. Once adsorbed to a metal, however, the switching is inefficient or absent due to rapid excited-state quenching or loss of the trans–cis bistability. We find that tris-[4-(phenylazo)-phenyl]-amine is a rather efficient switch on Ag(111). Using scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopy at submolecular resolution along with density functional theory calculations, we show that the switching process is no trans–cis isomerization but rather a reorientation of the N–N bond of an AB unit. It proceeds through a twisting motion of the azo-bridge that leads to a lateral shift of a phenyl ring. Thus, the role of the Ag substrate is ambivalent. While it suppresses the original bistability of the azobenzene units, it creates a new one by inducing a barrier for the rotation of the N–N bond.