Cross-conjugation and quantum interference: a general correlation?
We discuss the relationship between the π-conjugation pattern, molecular length, and charge transport properties of molecular wires, both from an experimental and a theoretical viewpoint. Specifically, we focus on the role of quantum interference in the conductance properties of cross-conjugated molecules. For this, we compare experiments on two series of dithiolated wires. The first set we synthesized consists of three dithiolated oligo(phenylene ethynylene) (OPE) benchmark compounds with increasing length. The second series synthesized comprises three molecules with different π-conjugation patterns, but identical lengths, i.e. an anthracene (linear conjugation), an anthraquinone (cross-conjugation), and a dihydroanthracene (broken conjugation) derivative. To benchmark reliable trends, conductance experiments on these series have been performed by various techniques. Here, we compare data obtained by conductive-probe atomic force microscopy (CP-AFM) for self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) with single-molecule break junction and multi-molecule EGaIn data from other groups. For the benchmark OPE-series, we consistently find an exponential decay of the conductance with molecular length characterized by β = 0.37 ± 0.03 Å−1 (CP-AFM). Remarkably, for the second series, we do not only find that the linearly conjugated anthracene-containing wire is the most conductive, but also that the cross-conjugated anthraquinone-containing wire is less conductive than the broken-conjugated derivative. We attribute the low conductance values for the cross-conjugated species to quantum interference effects. Moreover, by theoretical modeling, we show that destructive quantum interference is a robust feature for cross-conjugated structures and that the energy at which complete destructive interference occurs can be tuned by the choice of side group. The latter provides an outlook for future devices in this fascinating field connecting chemistry and physics.