Three oligothiophene (terthiophene, tetrathiophene and pentathiophene) derivatives are synthesized and their monolayer self-assemblies on gold (Au) are prepared via Au–S covalent bond. Our UV–Vis experimental characterization of solution reveals the dependence of the optical properties on the conjugation length of the oligothiophenes, which compares well with Time-Dependent Density Functional Theory (TDDFT) simulations of spectra of individual chromophores. Photoluminescent spectra of thin films show pronounced red shifts compared to that of solutions, suggesting strong inter-oligomer interactions. The comparative studies of cyclic voltammograms of tetrathiophene from solution, cast film and self-assembled monolayer (SAM) indicate presence of one, two, and three oxidized species in these samples, respectively, suggesting a very strong electronic coupling between tetrathiophene molecules in the SAM. Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) imaging of SAMs of the tetrathiophene on an atomically flat Au surface exhibits formation of monolayer assemblies with molecular order, and the molecular packing appears to show an overlay of oligothiophene molecules on top of another one. In contrast, the trimer and pentamer images show only aggregated species lacking long-range order on the molecular level. Such trends in going from disordered–ordered–disordered monolayer assemblies are mainly due to a delicate balance between inter-chromophore π–π couplings, hydrophobic interaction and the propensity to form Au–S covalent bond. Such hypothesis has been validated by our computational results suggesting different interaction patterns of oligothiophenes with odd numbered and even numbered thiophene repeat units placed in a dimer configuration. Observed correlations between oligomer geometry and structural order of monolayer assembly elucidate important structure–property relationships and have implications for these molecular structures in organic optoelectronic devices and energy devices.
- Structural order