Nanotechnology aspires to create functional materials with characteristic dimensions of the order 1–100 nm. One requirement to make nanotechnology work is to precisely position molecules and nanoparticles on surfaces, so that they may be addressed and manipulated for bottom-up construction of nanoscale devices. Here we review the concept of a “molecular printboard”. A molecular printboard is a monolayer of host molecules on a solid substrate on which guest molecules can be attached with control over position, binding strength, and binding dynamics. To this end, cyclodextrins were immobilized in monomolecular layers on gold, on silicon wafers and on glass. Guest molecules (for example, adamantane and ferrocene derivatives) bind to these host surfaces through supramolecular, hydrophobic inclusion interaction. Multivalent interactions are exploited to tune the binding strength and dynamics of the interaction of guest molecules with the printboard. Molecules can be positioned onto the printboard using supramolecular microcontact printing and supramolecular dip-pen nanolithography due to the specific interaction between the ‘ink’ and the substrate. In this way, nanoscale patterns can be written and erased on the printboard. Currently, the molecular printboard is exploited for nanofabrication, for example in combination with electroless deposition of metals and by means of supramolecular layer-by-layer deposition.
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