The unique electronic properties and functional tunability of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have recently fostered high hopes for their use in flexible, green, portable, and cheap technologies. Most applications require the deposition of thin molecular films onto conductive electrodes. The growth of the first few molecular layers represents a crucial step in the device fabrication since it determines the structure of the molecular film and the energy level alignment of the metal-organic interface. Here, we explore the formation of this interface by analyzing the interplay between reversible molecule-substrate charge transfer, yielding intermolecular repulsion, and van der Waals attractions in driving the molecular assembly. Using a series of ad hoc designed molecules to balance the two effects, we combine scanning tunnelling microscopy with atomistic simulations to study the self-Assembly behavior. Our systematic analysis identifies a growth mode characterized by anomalous coarsening that we anticipate to occur in a wide class of metal-organic interfaces and which should thus be considered as integral part of the self-Assembly process when depositing a molecule on a conducting surface.
- charge transfer
- interfacial dipoles
- metal-organic interfaces
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- self-Assembly at surfaces