Ultrafast electron injection into photo-excited organic molecules†
Charge transfer rates at metal/organic interfaces affect the efficiencies of devices for organic based electronics and photovoltaics. A quantitative study of electron transfer rates, which take place on the femtosecond timescale, is often difficult, especially since in most systems the molecular adsorption geometry is unknown. Here, we use X-ray resonant photoemission spectroscopy to measure ultrafast charge transfer rates across pyridine/Au(111) interfaces while also controlling the molecular orientation on the metal. We demonstrate that a bi-directional charge transfer across the molecule/metal interface is enabled upon creation of a core-exciton on the molecule with a rate that has a strong dependence on the molecular adsorption angle. Through density functional theory calculations, we show that the alignment of molecular levels relative to the metal Fermi level is dramatically altered when a core-hole is created on the molecule, allowing the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital to fall partially below the metal Fermi level. We also calculate charge transfer rates as a function of molecular adsorption geometry and find a trend that agrees with the experiment. These findings thus give insight into the charge transfer dynamics of a photo-excited molecule on a metal surface.