Angle-dependent strength of a single chemical bond by stereographic force spectroscopy†
A wealth of chemical bonds and polymers have been studied with single-molecule force spectroscopy, usually by applying a force perpendicular to the anchoring surface. However, the direction-dependence of the bond strength lacks fundamental understanding. Here we establish stereographic force spectroscopy to study the single-bond strength for various pulling angles. Surprisingly, we find that the apparent bond strength increases with increasing pulling angle relative to the anchoring surface normal, indicating a sturdy mechanical anisotropy of a chemical bond. This finding can be rationalized by a fixed pathway for the rupture of the bond, resulting in an effective projection of the applied pulling force onto a nearly fixed rupture direction. Our study is fundamental for the molecular understanding of the role of the direction of force application in molecular adhesion and friction. It is also a prerequisite for the nanoscale tailoring of the anisotropic strength of bottom-up designed materials.