Physical Review Letters

Adsorption geometry determination of single molecules by atomic force microscopy

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We measured the adsorption geometry of single molecules with intramolecular resolution using noncontact atomic force microscopy with functionalized tips. The lateral adsorption position was determined with atomic resolution, adsorption height differences with a precision of 3 pm, and tilts of the molecular plane within 0.2. The method was applied to five π-conjugated molecules, including three molecules from the olympicene family, adsorbed on Cu(111). For the olympicenes, we found that the substitution of a single atom leads to strong variations of the adsorption height, as predicted by state-of-the-art density-functional theory, including van der Waals interactions with collective substrate response effects. © 2013 American Physical Society.