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Physisorption controls the conformation and density of states of an adsorbed porphyrin

Jarvis, S. P.; Taylor, S.; Baran, J. D.; Thompson, D.; Saywell, A.; Mangham, Barry; Champness, Neil R.; Larsson, J. A.; Moriarty, P.

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S. P. Jarvis

S. Taylor

J. D. Baran

D. Thompson

Barry Mangham

Neil R. Champness

J. A. Larsson


Conformational changes caused by adsorption can dramatically affect a molecule’s properties. Despite extensive study, however, the exact mechanisms underpinning conformational switching are often unclear. Here we show that the conformation of a prototypical flexible molecule, the freebase tetra(4-bromophenyl) porphyrin, adsorbed on Cu(111), depends critically on its precise adsorption site and that, remarkably, large conformational changes are dominated by van der Waals interactions between the molecule and the substrate surface. A combination of scanning probe microscopy, single-molecule manipulation, DFT with dispersion density functional theory, and molecular dynamics simulations show that van der Waals forces drive significant distortions of the molecular architecture so that the porphyrin can adopt one of two low-energy conformations. We find that adsorption driven by van der Waals forces alone is capable of causing large shifts in the molecular density of states, despite the apparent absence of chemical interactions. These findings highlight the essential role that van der Waals forces play in determining key molecular properties.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Dec 4, 2015
Publication Date Dec 17, 2015
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 15, 2016
Journal Journal of Physical Chemistry C
Print ISSN 1932-7447
Electronic ISSN 1932-7455
Publisher American Chemical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 119
Issue 50
Pages 27982-27994
Public URL
Publisher URL


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