Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy

Part of the NanoScience and Technology book series (NANO)


Molecular-scale forces has a pivotal role in biological, chemical and physical processes. Single molecule force spectroscopy refers to the study of these forces as well as the mechanical properties of single molecules under applied forces. The term has appeared more than two decades ago in the field of biochemistry, however the recent advances of atomic force microscopy (AFM) operated at low temperature have brought such studies down to the atomic level hence opening new exciting perspectives. At this ultimate level, the intrinsic properties of individual organic species are now quantified by measuring force and conductance informations at the sub-molecular level. Not only restricted to the mechanics of the adsorbates, these techniques are nowadays employed to reveal their chemical structures, their electronic characteristics as well as their optical properties. This chapter reviews proto-typical experiments revealing the fundamental properties of single molecules using advanced spectroscopic techniques at low temperature. First, we will discuss the requirements of such spectroscopic experiments as well as the “essence” of the physical quantities extracted from them. Section 11.3 will respectively show the capability of this approach in the elucidation of the structure of single molecules, the mechanical properties, their internal mechanical behavior under various manipulation processes. Section 11.4 will be dedicated to the study of their electronic and optical properties down to the sub-molecular scale. Finally, Sect. 11.5 will discuss the future prospects.


Non-contact atomic force microscopy (ncAFM) Single molecule Force spectroscopy Manipulation Properties 



The authors are very grateful to their colleagues: Dr. Sweetlana Fremy for her help on performing the porphyrin experiments and her work on LCPD mapping of CuPc and Dr. Ali Sadeghi and Dr. Alexis Baratoff for fruitful discussions and their precious theoretical contributions. The authors also wish to acknowledge their collaborators: Pr. E. Gnecco for the extended Frenkel-Kantorova model, the group of Pr. F. Diederich for providing the porphyrin molecules, the group of Pr. L. Grill and Pr. S. Hecht for their contribution in the DBTF molecule experiments, the group of Pr. A. Orita for providing the FFPB molecules, the group of Pr. Urback for the numerical calculations of the friction experiment with porphyrins and the group of Pr. D. Spitzer and Dr. V. Pichot for the preparation of the nanodiamond samples.

These works is supported by the from the Swiss National Science Foundation (NSF), the Swiss nanoscience Institute (SNI), the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research on Nanoscale Science (NCCR-NANO), the PRESTO project of the Japan Science and Technology agency (JST), the Polish-Swiss Project PSPB-085/2010 and the EU Cost action MP13V3.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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