The Limits of Inelastic Tunneling Spectroscopy for Identifying Transport Pathways

09 March 2020, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Inelastic Electron Tunneling Spectroscopy (IETS) is a powerful tool to study the properties of molecular junctions. In particular, it is considered useful for extracting information on electron transport pathways. We explore the limits of this approach by comparing computed interatomic transmission pathways with IETS intensities for different molecular junctions, employing a new efficient implementation for evaluating IETS intensities via the mode-tracking algorithm. We find that while a correlation be- tween pathways and IETS intensities indeed holds when vibrations are clearly localized on atoms off the transport pathway, there is no such correlation for molecules with less localized vibrations, even if transport pathways only sample part of the molecule, and even if a statistical analysis over the vibrational modes is made. This could indicate that the significance of IETS signals for transport pathways is limited to molecules with localized vibrational modes.


IETS spectroscopy
Molecular Electronics
single-molecule conductance

Supplementary materials



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