This project will be supported by the Chemical Structure, Dynamics, and Mechanisms Program (CSDM) and the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program (MSN) of the Division of Chemistry. In this study, Professor Nongjian Tao and his research group at Arizona State University will develop single molecule break-junction techniques to study electronic conductance through polyaromatic hydrocarbon molecules and molecular bridge structures formed from water. Studying electron transport in single molecules is a necessary step towards the ultimate goal of building electronic devices based on single molecules, and it is also critical for a better understanding of many chemical and biological processes, such as electrochemical reactions, respiration and bioenergetics. Important questions that this project will address include: What is the most efficient electron transport via a single molecule? What are the factors that limit us from achieving the most efficient electron transport? How can one understand and overcome these limiting factors, thus controlling the charge transport efficiency? In order to have a direct impact on electron transfer phenomena in biological and electrochemical systems, one must understand the role of water molecules in electron transport. This project will thus address also questions regarding water molecules: Is it possible to directly measure the formation of hydrogen-bonded networks of water molecules between two electrodes? If so, what are the conductivities of different hydrogen-bonded networks of water bridges? Is there quantum interference between different electron transport pathways associated with the networks?
In order to provide students with interdisciplinary and international training experience, this project will leverage several on-campus undergraduate and graduate research programs to recruit and train students from chemistry and other programs; host international students and collaborate with international researchers; and start a community outreach program via working with local public schools that have large minority enrollments.