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Dynamics of Single-Molecule Rotations on Surfaces that Depend on Symmetry, Interactions, and Molecular Sizes

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posted on 13.01.2011, 00:00 by Alexey Akimov, Anatoly B. Kolomeisky
Rotating surface-mounted molecules have attracted the attention of many research groups as a way to develop new nanoscale devices and materials. However, mechanisms of motion of these rotors at the single-molecule level are still not well-understood. Theoretical and experimental studies on thioether molecular rotors on gold surfaces suggest that the size of the molecules, their flexibility, and steric repulsions with the surface are important for dynamics of the system. A complex combination of these factors leads to the observation that the rotation speeds have not been hindered by increasing the length of the alkyl chains. However, experiments on diferrocene derivatives indicated a significant increase in the rotational barriers for longer molecules. We present here a comprehensive theoretical study that combines molecular dynamics simulations and simple models to investigate what factors influence single-molecule rotations on the surfaces. Our results suggest that rotational dynamics is determined by the size and by the symmetry of the molecules and surfaces and by interactions with surfaces. Our theoretical predictions are in excellent agreement with current experimental observations.