A reversible single-molecule switch based on activated antiaromaticity
Single-molecule electronic devices provide researchers with an unprecedented ability to relate novel physical phenomena to molecular chemical structures. Typically, conjugated aromatic molecular backbones are relied upon to create electronic devices, where the aromaticity of the building blocks is used to enhance conductivity. We capitalize on the classical physical organic chemistry concept of Hückel antiaromaticity by demonstrating a single-molecule switch that exhibits low conductance in the neutral state and, upon electrochemical oxidation, reversibly switches to an antiaromatic high-conducting structure. We form single-molecule devices using the scanning tunneling microscope–based break-junction technique and observe an on/off ratio of ~70 for a thiophenylidene derivative that switches to an antiaromatic state with 6-4-6- electrons. Through supporting nuclear magnetic resonance measurements, we show that the doubly oxidized core has antiaromatic character and we use density functional theory calculations to rationalize the origin of the high-conductance state for the oxidized single-molecule junction. Together, our work demonstrates how the concept of antiaromaticity can be exploited to create single-molecule devices that are highly conducting.