We report the synthesis of new oligo(aryleneethynylene) molecular wires of ca. 4 nm length scale by palladium-catalyzed Sonogashira cross-coupling methodology. Key structural features are the presence of electron donor 9-(1,3-dithiol-2-ylidene)fluorene (compounds 13 and 14) and electron acceptor 9-[di(4-pyridyl)methylene]fluorene units (compound 16) at the core of the molecules. Terminal thiolate substituents are protected as cyanoethylsulfanyl (13 and 16) or thioacetate derivatives (14). The molecules display well-defined redox processes in solution electrochemical studies. The optical properties in solution are similar to those of the fluorenone analog 6: the strongest absorptions for 6, 13 and 16 are in the region lambda(max) = 387-393 nm, with 13 showing an additional shoulder at 415 nm which is not present for 6 and 16; this shoulder is assigned to a HOMO-LUMO transition from the dithiole to the fluorene unit. Molecules 6, 13, 14 and 16 form self-assembled monolayers on gold substrates which exhibit essentially symmetrical current-voltage (I-V) characteristics when contacted by a gold scanning tunelling microscope (STM) tip. The effects of the chemical modifications at the central unit of 6, 14 and 16 on the HOMO-LUMO levels and electron transport through the molecules in vacuum have been computed by an ab initio approach.
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