This paper compares the structural and electrical characteristics of self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of n-alkanethiolates, SCn (n = 10, 12, 14), on two types of silver substrates: one used as-deposited (AS-DEP) by an electron-beam evaporator, and one prepared using the method of template-stripping. Atomic force microscopy showed that the template-stripped (TS) silver surfaces were smoother and had larger grains than the AS-DEP surfaces, and reflectance-absorbance infrared spectroscopy showed that SAMs formed on TS substrates were more crystalline than SAMs formed on AS-DEP substrates. The range of current densities, J (A/cm2), measured through mercury-drop junctions incorporating a given SAM on AS-DEP silver was, on average, several orders of magnitude larger than the range of J measured through the same SAM on TS silver, and the AS-DEP junctions failed, on average, 3.5 times more often within five current density-voltage (J-V) scans than did TS junctions (depending on the length of the alkyl chains of the molecules in the SAM). The apparent log-normal distribution of J through the TS junctions suggests that, in these cases, it is the variability in the effective thickness of the insulating layer (the distance the electron travels between electrodes) that results in the uncertainty in J. The parameter describing the decay of current density with the thickness of the insulating layer, β, was either 0.57 Å-1 at V = +0.5 V (calculated using the log-mean of the distribution of values of J) or 0.64 Å-1 (calculated using the peak of the distribution of values of J) for the TS junctions; the latter is probably the more accurate. The mechanisms of failure of the junctions, and the degree and sources of uncertainty in current density, are discussed with respect to a variety of defects that occur within Hg-drop junctions incorporating SAMs on silver.
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