Reversible photomechanical switching of individual engineered molecules at a metallic surface

Matthew J. Comstock*, Niv Levy, Armen Kirakosian, Jongweon Cho, Frank Lauterwasser, Jessica H. Harvey, David A. Strubbe, Jean M.J. Fréchet, Dirk Trauner, Steven G. Louie, Michael F. Crommie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

336 Scopus citations


We have observed reversible light-induced mechanical switching for individual organic molecules bound to a metal surface. Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) was used to image the features of individual azobenzene molecules on Au(111) before and after reversibly cycling their mechanical structure between trans and cis states using light. Azobenzene molecules were engineered to increase their surface photomechanical activity by attaching varying numbers of tert-butyl (TB) ligands ("legs") to the azobenzene phenyl rings. STM images show that increasing the number of TB legs "lifts" the azobenzene molecules from the substrate, thereby increasing molecular photomechanical activity by decreasing molecule-surface coupling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number038301
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 18 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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