Self-assembly of molecules on surfaces is fundamentally a process whereby individual molecules, separated in the gas or liquid phase, fonn ordered arrays on a surface. The driving forces for these self-assembly processes are the attractive and repulsive interactions among the molecules themselves and between the molecular assemblies and the surface. Since physisorption causes minimal perturbation of chemical bonds, studies of physisorbed species provide an extremely convenient method for investigating issues of molecular structure, conformation, orientation and dynamics of molecules in their “natural” state. The two dimensional nature of the interface introduces constraints that can be used advantageously to separate and identify novel structures.
Control and manipulation of self assembly and molecular conformation is one of the key issues often cited in efforts to develop nanotechnology initiatives for the next generation of electrical and mechanical devices. The development of molecular electronic devices based solely on organic materials will also require careful control and manipulation of molecular assemblies as well as the conformations and orientations of the molecules and functional groups within these arrays.