Direct measurement and modulation of single-molecule coordinative bonding forces in a transition metal complex
Journal article, 2013
Coordination chemistry has been a consistently active branch of chemistry since Werner’s seminal theory of coordination compounds inaugurated in 1893, with the central focus on transition metal complexes. However, control and measurement of metal–ligand interactions at the single-molecule level remain a daunting challenge. Here we demonstrate an interdisciplinary and systematic approach that enables measurement and modulation of the coordinative bonding forces in a transition metal complex. Terpyridine is derived with a thiol linker, facilitating covalent attachment of this ligand on both gold substrate surfaces and gold-coated atomic force microscopy tips. The coordination and bond breaking between terpyridine and osmium are followed in situ by electrochemically controlled atomic force microscopy at the single-molecule level. The redox state of the central metal atom is found to have a significant impact on the metal–ligand interactions. The present approach represents a major advancement in unravelling the nature of metal–ligand interactions and could have broad implications in coordination chemistry.