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November 5th, 2007
A team of scientists based in the UK and Germany have covalently bonded strings of porphyrin molecules on a gold surface - a step forward in the quest to develop nano-electronics.1
Other researchers have linked more than two molecules on surfaces as supramolecular structures before, but the patterns were held together only by non-covalent methods, such as hydrogen bonding and van der Waals interactions.
Non-covalent links are reversible and relatively fragile, says Stefan Hecht, chair of organic chemistry and functional materials at Humboldt University in Berlin and a member of the team. But covalent bonds are more stable and can transport electrical charge.
The team uses porphyrins, flat square-shaped molecules with four phenyl arms, one extending from each edge. The molecules are synthesized so that some or all the arms have a bromine atom at the end. The bromine atoms are removed by heating the molecules, leaving behind carbon radicals that combine through covalent carbon-carbon bonds, linking the porphyrin molecules.
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