SMAT Talks – Molecules at work: from precision chemistry to cooperative molecular machines

Published 21 April, 2022


Surfaces and interfaces represent low-dimensional spatial confinements. These open unique pathways to on-surface chemical reaction schemes with regio-selective and kinetic control that are not available in conventional liquid- or gas-phase chemistry. In addition, surfaces may be catalytically active, and by surface reconstruction and faceting the spatial confinement may display a one- or zero-dimensional character. By using on-surface chemistry techniques, intermediate chemical states can be analysed with high-resolution techniques such as low-temperature STM and AFM under ultrahigh vacuum conditions. This approach also opens the pathway for controlled orthogonal reactions. In addition, we have found a fascinating new and powerful potential of on-surface chemistry, which supports a new strategy for the generation of intelligent functional systems. In this context, we recently introduced a molecular swarm-like system performing a coordinated surface restructuring. It is based on N‐heterocyclic carbenes (NHC) binding to a single noble metal atom, such as an Au(111) surface after vacuum deposition. No external supporting measures are required, such as lithography or STM and AFM probes, to induce this reconstruction. This opens the door for a generation of ‘programmed’ and autonomously acting molecular species, which could potentially optimise surfaces in a cooperative way; for example, for catalysis applications.


Professor Harald Fuchs

Universität Münster, Germany

Harald Fuchs is a Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Münster, Germany. After completing his PhD in Material Science at the University of Saarbrücken, Germany, he spent a postdoctoral year with the IBM Research Laboratory Zurich from 1984–85. From 1985-93, he headed up the Ultrathin Organic Films’ research project at BASF AG, Germany, before becoming a Full Professor and Director of the Physical Institute of the University of Münster in 1993. He is the founder of the Center for Nanotechnology (CeNTech) in Münster and its Scientific Director since 1993. His research focuses on nanoscale science and nanotechnology, ranging from scanning probe microscopy to self-organised nanostructure fabrication, and nano-bio systems. He has published more than 700 peer-reviewed publications and holds 58 patents. He was the speaker at the first large-scale collaborative research Sino-German basic research project, SFB/TRR 61, jointly funded by DFG and NSFC. Prof. Fuchs is a co-founder of two start-up companies. He is an elected member of the German National Academy of Science ‘Leopoldina’, the German National Academy of Science and Engineering 'acatech', and 'TWAS'. He received the Chinese Friendship Award from the Chinese government in 2019, and the Chinese Government Cooperation Award in 2020.


Professor Lifeng Chi

Chinese Academy of Sciences, Soochow University, China

Lifeng Chi, is a professor at Soochow University in China and is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Physics (1982) and Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry (1985), both at Jilin University, China. Thereafter she obtained her PhD degree in Physical Chemistry in 1989 at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry/Göttingen University. In 2000, she finished her habilitation at the physics department, University of Münster and became a Professor at University of Münster in 2004. She was elected as academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2021 and a member of the Academy of Europe. She has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including: IUPAC Award for Distinguished Women in Chemistry/Chemical Engineering (2017), ACS Nano Lectureship Award (2016), Distinguished Overseas Chinese Young Scientist (1999) and Lisa-Meitner Scholarship (1997). She serves on the editorial/advisory boards of several international journals and as an associate editor of Chinese scientific journals, including SmallACS NanoChemComm, Journal of Physical Chemistry LettersAdvances in Material Interfaces and ChemNanoMat. She has published more than 450 scientific papers in journals such as NatureScienceJournal of American Chemical SocietyAngewandte ChemieChem and Physical Review Letters.

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