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Resolving Intra- and Inter-Molecular Structure with Non-Contact Atomic Force Microscopy

School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
Academic Editor: John George Hardy
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2015, 16(8), 19936-19959;
Received: 26 June 2015 / Revised: 24 July 2015 / Accepted: 30 July 2015 / Published: 21 August 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supramolecular Interactions)
PDF [5926 KB, uploaded 21 August 2015]


A major challenge in molecular investigations at surfaces has been to image individual molecules, and the assemblies they form, with single-bond resolution. Scanning probe microscopy, with its exceptionally high resolution, is ideally suited to this goal. With the introduction of methods exploiting molecularly-terminated tips, where the apex of the probe is, for example, terminated with a single CO, Xe or H2 molecule, scanning probe methods can now achieve higher resolution than ever before. In this review, some of the landmark results related to attaining intramolecular resolution with non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) are summarised before focussing on recent reports probing molecular assemblies where apparent intermolecular features have been observed. Several groups have now highlighted the critical role that flexure in the tip-sample junction plays in producing the exceptionally sharp images of both intra- and apparent inter-molecular structure. In the latter case, the features have been identified as imaging artefacts, rather than real intermolecular bonds. This review discusses the potential for NC-AFM to provide exceptional resolution of supramolecular assemblies stabilised via a variety of intermolecular forces and highlights the potential challenges and pitfalls involved in interpreting bonding interactions. View Full-Text
Keywords: atomic force microscopy; intramolecular; intermolecular; NC-AFM; supramolecular; hydrogen; bond atomic force microscopy; intramolecular; intermolecular; NC-AFM; supramolecular; hydrogen; bond

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Jarvis, S.P. Resolving Intra- and Inter-Molecular Structure with Non-Contact Atomic Force Microscopy. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2015, 16, 19936-19959.

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