Controlling electronic access to the spin excitations of a single molecule in a tunnel junction
Journal article, 2017
Spintronic phenomena underpin new device paradigms for data storage and sensing. Scaling these down to the single molecule level requires controlling the properties of current-carrying molecular orbitals to enable access to spin states through phenomena such as inelastic electron tunnelling. Here we show that the spintronic properties of a tunnel junction containing a single molecule can be controlled using the local environment as a pseudo-gate. For tunnelling through iron phthalocyanine (FePc) on an insulating copper nitride (Cu2N) monolayer above Cu(001), we find that spin transitions may be strongly excited depending on the binding site of the central Fe atom. Different interactions between the Fe and the underlying Cu or N atoms shift the Fe d orbitals with respect to the Fermi energy and control the relative strength of the spin excitations; this effect is captured in a simple co-tunnelling model. This work demonstrates the importance of the atomic-scale environment for the development of single molecule spintronic devices.