Photoisomerization of 4-(phenylazo)benzoic acid pulse-deposited on a Au(111) surface was studied at a molecular scale using scanning tunneling microscopy. The dynamic photoswitching events are seen in both isolated molecules under ultra-high vacuum and in molecules embedded in a host matrix of alkylthiolates.
Photochromic molecules can undergo a reversible conversion between two isomeric forms upon exposure to external stimuli such as electromagnetic radiation. A significant physical transformation accompanying the photoisomerization process defines them as photoswitches, with potential applications in various molecular electronic devices. As such, a detailed understanding of the photoisomerization process on surfaces and the influence of the local chemical environment on switching efficiency is essential. Herein, we use scanning tunneling microscopy to observe the photoisomerization of 4-(phenylazo)benzoic acid (PABA) assembled on Au(111) in kinetically constrained metastable states guided by pulse deposition. Photoswitching is observed at low molecular density and is absent in tight-packed islands. Furthermore, switching events were noted in PABA molecules coadsorbed in a host octanethiol monolayer, suggesting an influence of the surrounding chemical environment on photoswitching efficiency.Zum Volltext