In-Situ Formation of H-Bonding Imidazole Chains in Break-Junction Experiments

As a small molecule possessing both strong H-bond donor and acceptor functions, 1H-imidazole can participate in extensive homo- or heteromolecular H-bonding networks. These properties are important in Nature, as imidazole moieties are incorporated in many biologically-relevant compounds. Imidazole also finds applications ranging from corrosion inhibition to fire retardants and photography. We have found a peculiar behaviour of imidazole during scanning tunnelling microscopy-break junction (STM-BJ) experiments, in which oligomeric chains connect the two electrodes and allow efficient charge transport. We attributed this behaviour to the formation of hydrogen-bonding networks, as no evidence of such behaviour was found in 1-methylimidazole (incapable of participating in intramolecular hydrogen bonding). The results are supported by DFT calculations, which confirmed our hypothesis. These findings pave the road to the use of hydrogen-bonding networks for the fabrication of dynamic junctions based on supramolecular interactions.