MOLECULAR-SCALE ORGANIC ELECTROLUMINESCENCE FROM TUNNEL JUNCTIONS
ABSTRACT We report the generation and detection of bipolar organic electroluminescence of porphyrin molecules from a nanoscale junction in an ultrahigh vacuum scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Clear molecular fluorescence from porphyrin molecules near metal substrates has been realized through highly localized electrical excitation of molecules in proximity to a sharp tip apex. The molecular origin of the luminescence, arising from the highest occupied molecular orbital–lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (HOMO–LUMO) radiative transitions of neutral molecules, is clearly established by the observed well-defined vibrationally resolved fluorescence spectra that match perfectly with conventional photoluminescence data from molecular thin films. The molecules fluoresce at low onset voltages for both bias polarities, presenting an example of bipolar organic electroluminescence at the nanoscale. Such bipolar operation suggests a double-barrier model for electron transport, with hot electron injection into unoccupied states of molecules in both polarities. The optical behavior of molecules in the tunnel junction is also found sensitive to the electronic properties of molecules and energy level alignment at the interface. These results offer new information to the optoelectronic behavior of molecules in a nanoscopic environment and may open up new routes to the development of single-molecule science and molecular scale electronics.