AFM characterization of nanoscale ribbons grown from a series of oligo(p-phenyleneethynylene) derivatives

Jingmei Xu, Chuan Zhen Zhou, Lim Hup Yang, Neal T.S. Chung, Zhi Kuan Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The key to optimizing the properties of molecular scale wires lies in understanding and controlling the solid-state morphologies. This paper examines the influence of oligomer chain length, solvent, and concentration on the formation of nanoscale ribbons on mica substrates from solutions of oligo(p-phenyleneethynylene)s (OPEs) with hexyloxy side chains and thioacetyl end groups. The OPEs are of different molecular chain lengths, in which the numbers of p-dihexyloxyphenyleneethynylene repeat units, n, are 1, 3, 5, and 7, respectively, with their two ends capped with 4-thioacetylphenyl alligator groups. The atomic force microscope (AFM) is employed to investigate the thin film morphology and study the self-assembled organizations. Solvent and concentration are found to exert a strong influence on thin film morphology. Under suitable conditions, OPEs with 7 p-dihexyloxyphenyleneethynylene repeat units are driven to form micrometer-long nanoribbons, oriented preferably along the 3-fold symmetry axes of the mica substrate. The cross section of the nanoribbons is composed of 7 molecules as evaluated by AFM characterization. On the other hand, oligomers with shorter chain lengths (n = 1, 3, and 5) produce thin films featuring globular nanoaggregates, chains consisting of elongated grains, and rods, respectively. Plausible reasons for the variation in thin film morphology are discussed, based on the results obtained from investigation of oligomer chain length, solvent, and concentration effects. A subtle balance among molecular size and physicochemical properties of solute molecules, solvent molecules, and substrate is crucial for the formation of desired structures. Among them, oligomer chain length plays a key role in thin film morphology, and the critical number of repeat units in OPE/poly(p-phenyleneethynylene) molecules for the formation of nanoribbon structures with a molecular cross section is supposed to be 8 or 9.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)950-956
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 3 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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