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1.  Strong spin-filtering and spin-valve effects in a molecular V–C60–V contact 
Motivated by the recent achievements in the manipulation of C60 molecules in STM experiments, we study theoretically the structure and electronic properties of a C60 molecule in an STM tunneljunction with a magnetic tip and magnetic adatom on a Cu(111) surface using first-principles calculations. For the case of a vanadium tip/adatom, we demonstrate how spin coupling between the magnetic V atoms, mediated by the C60, can be observed in the electronic transport, which display a strong spin-filtering effect, allowing mainly majority-spin electrons to pass (>95%). Moreover, we find a significant change in the conductance between parallel and anti-parallel spin polarizations in the junction (86%) which suggests that STM experiments should be able to characterize the magnetism and spin coupling for these systems.
PMCID: PMC3458606  PMID: 23019556
fullerene; molecular spintronics; scanning tunneling microscopy; spin transport
2.  Current-induced forces in mesoscopic systems: A scattering-matrix approach 
Nanoelectromechanical systems are characterized by an intimate connection between electronic and mechanical degrees of freedom. Due to the nanoscopic scale, current flowing through the system noticeably impacts upons the vibrational dynamics of the device, complementing the effect of the vibrational modes on the electronic dynamics. We employ the scattering-matrix approach to quantum transport in order to develop a unified theory of nanoelectromechanical systems out of equilibrium. For a slow mechanical mode the current can be obtained from the Landauer–Büttiker formula in the strictly adiabatic limit. The leading correction to the adiabatic limit reduces to Brouwer’s formula for the current of a quantum pump in the absence of a bias voltage. The principal results of the present paper are the scattering-matrix expressions for the current-induced forces acting on the mechanical degrees of freedom. These forces control the Langevin dynamics of the mechanical modes. Specifically, we derive expressions for the (typically nonconservative) mean force, for the (possibly negative) damping force, an effective “Lorentz” force that exists even for time-reversal-invariant systems, and the fluctuating Langevin force originating from Nyquist and shot noise of the current flow. We apply our general formalism to several simple models that illustrate the peculiar nature of the current-induced forces. Specifically, we find that in out-of-equilibrium situations the current-induced forces can destabilize the mechanical vibrations and cause limit-cycle dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3304326  PMID: 22428105
current-induced forces; electronic transport theory; nanoelectromechanical systems; scattering matrix; S-matrix
3.  Transmission eigenvalue distributions in highly conductive molecular junctions 
Background: The transport through a quantum-scale device may be uniquely characterized by its transmission eigenvalues τn. Recently, highly conductive single-molecule junctions (SMJ) with multiple transport channels (i.e., several τn > 0) have been formed from benzene molecules between Pt electrodes. Transport through these multichannel SMJs is a probe of both the bonding properties at the lead–molecule interface and of the molecular symmetry.
Results: We use a many-body theory that properly describes the complementary wave–particle nature of the electron to investigate transport in an ensemble of Pt–benzene–Pt junctions. We utilize an effective-field theory of interacting π-electrons to accurately model the electrostatic influence of the leads, and we develop an ab initio tunneling model to describe the details of the lead–molecule bonding over an ensemble of junction geometries. We also develop a simple decomposition of transmission eigenchannels into molecular resonances based on the isolated resonance approximation, which helps to illustrate the workings of our many-body theory, and facilitates unambiguous interpretation of transmission spectra.
Conclusion: We confirm that Pt–benzene–Pt junctions have two dominant transmission channels, with only a small contribution from a third channel with τn << 1. In addition, we demonstrate that the isolated resonance approximation is extremely accurate and determine that transport occurs predominantly via the HOMO orbital in Pt–benzene–Pt junctions. Finally, we show that the transport occurs in a lead–molecule coupling regime where the charge carriers are both particle-like and wave-like simultaneously, requiring a many-body description.
PMCID: PMC3304317  PMID: 22428095
benzene–platinum junction; effective-field theory; isolated-resonance approximation; lead–molecule interface; many-body theory; multichannel; quantum transport; single-molecule junction; transmission eigenchannels
4.  When “small” terms matter: Coupled interference features in the transport properties of cross-conjugated molecules 
Quantum interference effects offer opportunities to tune the electronic and thermoelectric response of a quantum-scale device over orders of magnitude. Here we focus on single-molecule devices, in which interference features may be strongly affected by both chemical and electronic modifications to the system. Although not always desirable, such a susceptibility offers insight into the importance of “small” terms, such as through-space coupling and many-body charge–charge correlations. Here we investigate the effect of these small terms using different Hamiltonian models with Hückel, gDFTB and many-body theory to calculate the transport through several single-molecule junctions, finding that terms that are generally thought to only slightly perturb the transport instead produce significant qualitative changes in the transport properties. In particular, we show that coupling of multiple interference features in cross-conjugated molecules by through-space coupling will lead to splitting of the features, as can correlation effects. The degeneracy of multiple interference features in cross-conjugated molecules appears to be significantly more sensitive to perturbations than those observed in equivalent cyclic systems and this needs to be considered if such supernodes are required for molecular thermoelectric devices.
PMCID: PMC3257512  PMID: 22259770
gDFTB; Hückel model; many-body effects; molecular electronics; quantum interference; thermoelectrics; topology
5.  Current-induced dynamics in carbon atomic contacts 
Background: The effect of electric current on the motion of atoms still poses many questions, and several mechanisms are at play. Recently there has been focus on the importance of the current-induced nonconservative forces (NC) and Berry-phase derived forces (BP) with respect to the stability of molecular-scale contacts. Systems based on molecules bridging electrically gated graphene electrodes may offer an interesting test-bed for these effects.
Results: We employ a semi-classical Langevin approach in combination with DFT calculations to study the current-induced vibrational dynamics of an atomic carbon chain connecting electrically gated graphene electrodes. This illustrates how the device stability can be predicted solely from the modes obtained from the Langevin equation, including the current-induced forces. We point out that the gate offers control of the current, independent of the bias voltage, which can be used to explore current-induced vibrational instabilities due the NC/BP forces. Furthermore, using tight-binding and the Brenner potential we illustrate how Langevin-type molecular-dynamics calculations including the Joule heating effect for the carbon-chain systems can be performed. Molecular dynamics including current-induced forces enables an energy redistribution mechanism among the modes, mediated by anharmonic interactions, which is found to be vital in the description of the electrical heating.
Conclusion: We have developed a semiclassical Langevin equation approach that can be used to explore current-induced dynamics and instabilities. We find instabilities at experimentally relevant bias and gate voltages for the carbon-chain system.
PMCID: PMC3257507  PMID: 22259765
carbon-nanoelectronics; current-induced forces; molecular contacts; nanoscale Joule heating; semiclassical Langevin equation
6.  Towards quantitative accuracy in first-principles transport calculations: The GW method applied to alkane/gold junctions 
The calculation of the electronic conductance of nanoscale junctions from first principles is a long-standing problem in the field of charge transport. Here we demonstrate excellent agreement with experiments for the transport properties of the gold/alkanediamine benchmark system when electron–electron interactions are described by the many-body GW approximation. The conductance follows an exponential length dependence: G n = G c exp(−βn). The main difference from standard density functional theory (DFT) calculations is a significant reduction of the contact conductance, G c, due to an improved alignment of the molecular energy levels with the metal Fermi energy. The molecular orbitals involved in the tunneling process comprise states delocalized over the carbon backbone and states localized on the amine end groups. We find that dynamic screening effects renormalize the two types of states in qualitatively different ways when the molecule is inserted in the junction. Consequently, the GW transport results cannot be mimicked by DFT calculations employing a simple scissors operator.
PMCID: PMC3257499  PMID: 22259757
alkanes; density functional theory; electron transport; gold junction; GW
7.  Nonconservative current-induced forces: A physical interpretation 
We give a physical interpretation of the recently demonstrated nonconservative nature of interatomic forces in current-carrying nanostructures. We start from the analytical expression for the curl of these forces, and evaluate it for a point defect in a current-carrying system. We obtain a general definition of the capacity of electrical current flow to exert a nonconservative force, and thus do net work around closed paths, by a formal noninvasive test procedure. Second, we show that the gain in atomic kinetic energy over time, generated by nonconservative current-induced forces, is equivalent to the uncompensated stimulated emission of directional phonons. This connection with electron–phonon interactions quantifies explicitly the intuitive notion that nonconservative forces work by angular momentum transfer.
PMCID: PMC3257496  PMID: 22259754
atomic-scale conductors; current-induced forces; failure mechanisms; nanomotors
8.  Interaction of spin and vibrations in transport through single-molecule magnets 
We study electron transport through a single-molecule magnet (SMM) and the interplay of its anisotropic spin with quantized vibrational distortions of the molecule. Based on numerical renormalization group calculations we show that, despite the longitudinal anisotropy barrier and small transverse anisotropy, vibrational fluctuations can induce quantum spin-tunneling (QST) and a QST-Kondo effect. The interplay of spin scattering, QST and molecular vibrations can strongly enhance the Kondo effect and induce an anomalous magnetic field dependence of vibrational Kondo side-bands.
PMCID: PMC3201623  PMID: 22043459
molecular electronic devices; molecular magnets; nanoelectronic devices; quantum dots

Results 1-8 (8)