F. Niroui, M. Saravanapavanantham, J. Han, J. J. Patil, T. M. Swager, J. H. Lang and V. Bulović
Nano Letters 21,1606 (2021)
Molecules can serve as ultimate building blocks for extreme nanoscale devices. This requires their precise integration into functional heterojunctions, most commonly in the form of metal–molecule–metal architectures. Structural damage and nonuniformities caused by current fabrication techniques, however, limit their effective incorporation. Here, we present a hybrid fabrication approach enabling uniform and active molecular junctions. A template-stripping technique is developed to form electrodes with sub-nanometer smooth surfaces. Combined with dielectrophoretic trapping of colloidal nanorods, uniform sub-5 nm junctions are achieved. Uniquely, in our design, the top contact is mechanically free to move under an applied stimulus. Using this, we investigate the electromechanical tuning of the junction and its tunneling conduction. Here, the molecules help control sub-nanometer mechanical modulation, which is conventionally challenging due to instabilities caused by surface adhesive forces. Our versatile approach provides a platform to develop and study active molecular junctions for emerging applications in electronics, plasmonics, and electromechanical devices.