Unidirectional supramolecular self-assembly inside nanocorrals via in situ STM nanoshaving†
Self-assembly of an alkylated diacetylene derivative is spatially confined via in situ scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) nanoshaving inside covalently modified highly ordered pyrolytic graphite (CM-HOPG). In contrast to unconstrained self-assembly that occurs randomly along three thermodynamically equivalent surface lattice directions, spatially confined assemblies are shown to form along chosen substrate orientations. Experimental statistics suggest two mechanisms for breaking the rotational degeneracy of the surface. First, the assembly orientation is biased via lateral confinement inside nanocorrals that do not match the substrate symmetry. Second, an interaction between the assembling molecules and the STM tip during nanoshaving guides 2D crystal nucleation and growth. The results presented here open new possibilities to regulate and orient self-assembled architectures via in situ nanomechanical manipulation techniques and provide mechanistic insights into the process.