Insight into STM image contrast of n-tetradecane and n-hexadecane molecules on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite
Two-dimensional ordered patterns of n-tetradecane (n-C14H30) and n-hexadecane (n-C16H34) molecules at liquid/graphite interface have been directly imaged using scanning tunneling microscope (STM) under ambient conditions. STM images reveal that the two different kinds of molecules self-organize into ordered lamellar structures in which alkane chains of the molecules extend along one of three equivalent lattice axes of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) basal plane. For n-C14H30 molecules, the molecular axes are observed to tilt by 60° with respect to inter-lamellar trough lines and the carbon backbones of the alkane chains are perpendicular to the HOPG basal plane in an all-trans conformation. However, for n-C16H34 molecules, the molecular axes are perpendicular to lamellar borders (90°) and the planes of the all-trans carbon skeletons are parallel to the graphite basal plane. The results clearly indicate that outmost hydrogen atoms of the alkane chains dominate atom-scaled features of the STM images. That is, in the case of long-chain alkane molecules, topographic effects dominantly determine STM image contrast of the methylene regions of the alkane chains that are adsorbed on HOPG.