News Release

Single-molecule optoelectronic devices: Physical mechanism and beyond

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Compuscript Ltd

A new publication from Opto-Electronic Advances; DOI  10.29026/oea.2022.210094. Single-molecule optoelectronic devices.


Single-molecule electronic devices, which use single molecules or molecular monolayers as their conductive channels, offer a new strategy to resolve the miniaturization and functionalization bottlenecks encountered by traditional semiconductor electronic devices. These devices have many inherent advantages, including adjustable electronic characteristics, ease of availability, functional diversity and so on. To date, single-molecule devices with a variety of functions have been realized, including diodes, field-effect devices and optoelectronic devices. In addition to their important applications in the field of functional devices, single-molecule devices also provide a unique platform to explore the intrinsic properties of matters at the single-molecule level.


Regulating the electrical properties of single-molecule devices is still a key step to further advance the development of molecular electronics. To effectively adjust the molecular properties of the device, it is necessary to clarify the interactions between electron transport in single-molecule devices and external fields, such as external temperature, magnetic field, electric field, and light field. Among these fields, the use of light to adjust the electronic properties of single-molecule devices is one of the most important fields, known as "single-molecule optoelectronics". This interaction not only refers to the influence of light on the electrical properties of molecular devices, that is, the use of light to control the charge transport through the molecules, but also refers to the luminescence originated from the molecules during the charge transfer process. Understanding the photoelectric interaction mechanism in single-molecule devices is of great significance to the development of single-molecule optoelectronics. This article mainly introduces the optoelectronic effects that are involved in single-molecule devices, including photoisomerization switching, photoconductance, plasmon-induced excitation, photovoltaic effect and electroluminescence. The optoelectronic mechanisms of single-molecule devices are summarized, and the process of photoisomerization, photoexcitation and photo-assisted tunneling are especially emphasized. The opportunities and challenges in the single-molecule optoelectronics field are discussed, and possible further breakthroughs are proposed.


The research groups of Prof. Xuefeng Guo, Prof. Chuancheng Jia and Prof. Dong Xiang from Center of Single-Molecule Sciences of Nankai University review the Physical mechanism and beyond in single-molecule optoelectronic devices. Single-molecule optoelectronic devices are of great significance because they not only provide new strategies for solving the bottleneck of miniaturization and functionalization of traditional semiconductor electronic devices, but also help to explore the intrinsic properties of molecules at the single-molecule level. Controlling the electrical properties of single-molecule devices is still the key to further advance the development of molecular electronics.


Therefore, it is important to clarify the interaction between charge transport in the devices and external fields, especially light. In this Review, the optoelectronic effects involved in single-molecule devices are summarized, including photoisomerization switching, photoconductance, plasmon-induced excitation, photovoltaics and electroluminescence. In addition, the mechanisms of single-molecule optoelectronic devices are elaborated, especially the processes of photoisomerization, photoexcitation and photo-assisted tunneling. Finally, the opportunities and challenges arising from the research of single-molecule optoelectronics are briefly introduced, and further breakthroughs in this field are proposed. This Review will be helpful to readers who are engaged in research related to optoelectronic, photonics, organic electronics, molecular electronics etc.


One remarkable aspect in chemistry is its powerful ability to create new materials; one remarkable aspect in physics is its powerful ability to investigate the intrinsic properties of these materials. The combination of both enables us to reveal the details of nature and change nature. The research in Center of Single-Molecule Sciences of Nankai University is focused on exploring the optoelectronic properties of novel functional molecular materials and/or low dimensional nanomaterials at the nanometer or molecular level, such as electron transport properties, optoelectronic properties, and stimulus response capabilities. These materials include single organic molecules/molecular clusters, carbon nanotubes, organic/inorganic nanowires, graphene, biomacromolecules, nanoparticles, etc. These are challenging and predictable, but active and interdisciplinary frontier research fields, with many opportunities and great potential applications. Graduate and postdoctoral students working on these projects will have been extensively well-trained in all aspects, including organic syntheses, assembly techniques, micro/nanofabrications, and detection systems. Specifically, our research focuses are:

  • Nano/molecular electronics;
  • Single-molecule dynamics and detection;
  • Organic/flexible electronics;
  • Chemo/biosensors


Article reference: Li PH, Chen YJ, Wang BY, Li MM, Xiang D et al. Single-molecule optoelectronic devices: physical mechanism and beyond. Opto-Electron Adv 5, 210094 (2022). doi: 10.29026/oea.2022.210094 


Keywords: optoelectronic device / single-molecule junction / light-matter interaction / switch / electroluminescence / plasmon

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Opto-Electronic Advances (OEA) is a high-impact, open access, peer reviewed monthly SCI journal with an impact factor of 9.682 (Journals Citation Reports for IF 2020). Since its launch in March 2018, OEA has been indexed in SCI, EI, DOAJ, Scopus, CA and ICI databases over the time and expanded its Editorial Board to 36 members from 17 countries and regions (average h-index 49).

The journal is published by The Institute of Optics and Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, aiming at providing a platform for researchers, academicians, professionals, practitioners, and students to impart and share knowledge in the form of high quality empirical and theoretical research papers covering the topics of optics, photonics and optoelectronics.


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