Direct Observation of Twin van der Waals Molecular Chains

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering


The van der Waals (vdW) assemblies are the most common structures of materials. However, direct mapping of intermolecular electron clouds of a vdW assembly has never been obtained, even though the intramolecular electron clouds were visualized by atomic-resolution techniques. In this report, we unprecedentedly mapped the intermolecular electron cloud of the assemblies of ethanol molecules via ethyl groups with high-resolution atomic force microscopy and scanning tunneling microscopy at 5 K, leading to the first visualization of vdW molecular chains, in which ethanol molecules assemble into twin vdW molecular chains in a reverse parallel configuration on the Ag(111) plane. Furthermore, spontaneous order-disorder transitions in the chain were dynamically observed, suggesting its unusual properties different from those of 2D vdW materials. These findings provide an "eye" to see the atomic world of vdW materials.

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The journal of physical chemistry letters