Structural changes in a Schiff base molecular assembly initiated by scanning tunneling microscopy tip
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We report the controlled self-organization and switching of newly designed Schiff base (E)-4-((4-(phenylethynyl) benzylidene) amino) benzenethiol (EPBB) molecules on a Au (111) surface at room temperature. Scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy (STM/STS) were used to image and analyze the conformational changes of the EPBB molecules. The conformational change of the molecules was induced by using the STM tip while increasing the tunneling current. The switching of a domain or island of molecules was shown to be induced by the STM tip during scanning. Unambiguous fingerprints of the switching mechanism were observed via STM/STS measurements. Surface-enhanced Raman scattering was employed, to control and identify quantitatively the switching mechanism of molecules in a monolayer. Density functional theory calculations were also performed in order to understand the microscopic details of the switching mechanism. These calculations revealed that the molecular switching behavior stemmed from the strong interaction of the EPBB molecules with the STM tip. Our approach to controlling intermolecular mechanics provides a path towards the bottom-up assembly of more sophisticated molecular machines.