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Structural Investigations of Self-Assembled Monolayers for Organic Electronics: Results from X‑ray Reflectivity

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journal contribution
posted on 21.07.2015 by Artoem Khassanov, Hans-Georg Steinrück, Thomas Schmaltz, Andreas Magerl, Marcus Halik
ConspectusSelf-assembled monolayers (SAMs) have been established as crucial interlayers and electronically active layers in organic electronic devices, such as organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), organic photovoltaics (OPVs), organic thin film transistors (OTFTs), and nonvolatile memories (NVMs). The use of self-assembling functionalized organic molecules is beneficial due to mainly three advantages compared with common thin film deposition approaches. (1) Molecular self-assembly occurs with surface selectivity, determined by the interaction between the functional anchor group of the organic molecules and the target surface. (2) The film thickness of the resulting layers is perfectly controllable on the angstrom scale, due to the self-terminating film formation to only a single molecular layer. And finally, (3) the wide variability in the chemical structure of such molecules enables different SAM functionalities for devices, ranging from electrical insulation to charge storage to charge transport. The SAM approach can be further expanded by employing several functionalized molecules to create mixed SAMs with consequently mixed properties.The function of SAMs in devices depends not only on the chemical structure of the molecules but also on their final arrangement and orientation on the surface. A reliable and nondestructive in-depth characterization of SAMs on nonconductive oxide surfaces is still challenging because of the very small thickness and the impracticality of methods such as scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS).In this Account, we illustrate how X-ray reflectivity (XRR) provides analytical access to major questions of SAM composition, morphology, and even formation by means of investigations of pure and mixed SAMs based on phosphonic acids (PAs) of various chain structures on flat alumina (AlOx) surfaces. XRR is an analytical method that provides access to spatially averaged structural depth profiles over a relatively large area of several square micrometers. The key outcome of XRR, the surface-normal electron density profile of the SAMs, leads to precise information on the SAM thickness with subangstrom resolution and allows for the determination of molecular tilt angles and packing densities.We have systematically increased the chemical complexity of PA molecules and the resulting SAMs, utilizing XRR to provide insight into the SAM structures. In SAMs composed of functionalized molecules or complex chain structures, the distribution of electron rich and electron poor signatures is detected and thus the molecular order within the SAM is determined.In mixed SAMs of two different molecular species, electron density profiles reveal the morphology and how the surface-normal structure changes if one component of the mixed SAM is altered. Furthermore, XRR was applied to investigate in situ the self-assembly of functionalized PA molecules from solution by tracking the monolayer growth over time. Even though the results provided by XRR on in-plane molecular arrangement are limited, it presents excellent information on the molecular scale along the surface normal and in addition allows for drawing conclusions on the intermolecular interactions within the SAM.