Surface single-molecule dynamics controlled by entropy at low temperatures

J. C. Gehrig, M. Penedo, M. Parschau, J. Schwenk, M. A. Marioni, E. W. Hudson, H. J. Hug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Configuration transitions of individual molecules and atoms on surfaces are traditionally described using an Arrhenius equation with energy barrier and pre-exponential factor (attempt rate) parameters. Characteristic parameters can vary even for identical systems, and pre-exponential factors sometimes differ by orders of magnitude. Using low-temperature scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) to measure an individual dibutyl sulfide molecule on Au(111), we show that the differences arise when the relative position of tip apex and molecule changes by a fraction of the molecule size. Altering the tip position on that scale modifies the transition's barrier and attempt rate in a highly correlated fashion, which results in a single-molecular enthalpy-entropy compensation. Conversely, appropriately positioning the STM tip allows selecting the operating point on the compensation line and modifying the transition rates. The results highlight the need to consider entropy in transition rates of single molecules, even at low temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14404
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Feb 9 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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