Copper phthalocyanine (CuPc) is a small molecule often used in organic light emitting diodes where it is deposited on a conducting electrode. Previous scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) studies of CuPc on Cu(111) have shown that inelastic tunneling events can cause CuPc to switch between a ground state and two symmetrically equivalent metastable states in which the molecule is rotated. We investigated CuPc on Cu(111) and Ag(111) with STM and lateral force microscopy (LFM). Even without inelastic events, the presence of the tip can induce rotations and upon closer approach, causes the rotated states to be favored. Combining STM measurements at various temperatures and LFM measurements, we show that the long-range attraction of the tip changes the potential energy landscape of this molecular switch. We can also determine the geometry of the rotated and ground states. We compare our observations of CuPc on Cu(111) to CuPc on Ag(111). On Ag(111), CuPc appears flat and does not rotate. Stronger bonding typically involves shorter bond lengths, larger shifts of energy levels, and structural stability. Although the binding of CuPc to Cu(111) is stronger than that on Ag(111), the nonplanar geometry of CuPc on Cu(111) is accompanied by two metastable states which are not present on the Ag(111) surface.
A.J. Weymouth, E. Riegel, B. Simmet, O. Gretz, F.J. Giessibl, ACS Nano 15, 1895 (2021).