The electrical transport properties of the molecular nanosilver chain have been investigated. We observed the symmetric negative differential resistance (NDR) in the current-voltage characteristics. The peak voltage ( ) increased but the peak current ( ) decreased upon cooling. The self-capacitance effect of the silver chain crystal is suggested to explain this unconventional NDR phenomenon.

1. Introduction

Negative differential resistance (NDR) has attracted much interest due to its applications for switch, memory, and high-speed logic devices. NDR explained by a resonance tunneling diode has been shown in various materials, such as germanium p-n junction [1], various heterostructures [26], semiconductor superlattices [7], self-assembled layered nanostructures [8], carbon atomic wires [9], mesoscopic manganite structures [10], and molecular electronics device systems [1113]. The NDR has also been observed in grapheme nanoribbon with unsaturated edges due to the strong current polarization [14] and due to the interaction between the narrow density of state of doped sites and the discrete states in the scattering region [15]. In addition, Ag-based materials, such as Ag/Si nanowires on silicon carbide, exhibited NDR as well [16]. NDR phenomena in general, including those mentioned above, exhibited asymmetric current-voltage ( - ) characteristics with respect to the applied voltage.

Recently, Moon et al. reported a stair-shaped Ag0 coordination compound without bridging ligands (nanosilver chain) [17]. This nanosilver chain (NSC) consists of Ag atoms linked by covalent bonds and pyridine molecules. Herein, we report the abnormal -shaped NDR phenomenon of the single crystalline NSC and temperature-dependent NDR behavior that cannot be interpreted by previously reported mechanisms. The - characteristics in the backward voltage sweep were symmetric to that in the forward voltage sweep. Hysteretic behavior was manifested as well. The peak voltage ( ) increased and the peak current ( ) decreased as the temperature decreased. We suggest that the NDR phenomenon of the NSC may be caused by a capacitance effect of the NSC itself.

2. Materials and Methods

The - characteristics were measured with the conventional 2-probe method. Silver paint (DuPont 4929N) and carbon paint (Dotite XC-12) contacts were made to 0.01 inch diameter gold wires. The - characteristics were doubly checked using semiconductor characterization systems (Keithley 4200-SCS) and electrometer (Keithley 6517A). The voltage sweep rate was 10 mV/sec. The temperature-dependent - characteristics were investigated with a cryogenic displex-osp.

3. Results and Discussion

The (001) and (010) planes of the single crystalline NSC are shown in Figure 1(a). The - characteristics of the NSC crystal at room temperature measured in air right after mounting the sample were the same as those measured in a vacuum after loading the sample in the displex cryogenic system. This implies that the NSC crystal lost pyridine molecules as soon as it was exposed to air [17] for the measurements. -type NDR was observed for (0.25 V) as shown in Figure 1(b). Here, and are voltages corresponding to the peak and the valley of the current, respectively. The - curve was linear in the low voltage region ( ). The current abruptly dropped at revealing NDR and started to increase gradually for (process “1”). In the backward sweep from high to low voltage, the current followed the same curve as that in the forward sweep for . However, it exhibited a big hysteresis for with a significantly reduced NDR peak (process “2”). The - characteristics of the negative voltage region (processes “3” and “4”) were symmetrical with those of the positive voltage region. To check the contact effect, the identical experiment with a carbon paint contact was also done. The - characteristics with carbon paint were the same with a silver paint contact although the details were not identical (the inset of Figure 1). This symmetric NDR with respect to the applied voltage has never been reported. It will be discussed later.

The temperature-dependent - characteristics of the NSC crystal from 230 K to 300 K are shown in Figure 2. All - curves showed the symmetric NDR behavior and the data were reproducible for 3–5 cycles of - measurements at each temperature. The peak current ( ) decreased but increased upon cooling. This is another unusual behavior in NDR phenomena. The resistivity ( ) at each temperature was obtained from the slope of the - curve in the linear region ( ) (Figure 3(a)). The resistivity at 300 K is  Ω cm, which is in the range of resistivity for ionic solids. The various Ag-based materials follow ionic conduction [1821]. Although no mobile ions are reportedly expected to exist in the NSC crystal [17], it is possible for ionic defects to exist in the NSC crystal, and the defects can cause the current to flow through the sample by ionic conduction. The temperature-dependent conductivity of the NSC crystal seems to follow the ionic conduction behavior with the activation energy 0.35 eV. However, the resistivity is well fitted to the thermally activated hopping conduction, , rather than the ionic conduction as shown in the inset of Figure 3(a). and are the activation energy and the Boltzmann constant, respectively. Moreover, the ionic conduction mechanism does not explain the unusual temperature dependence of the symmetric NDR phenomena of the NSC crystal. Therefore, we suggest another possible mechanism for the NDR behavior.

Above all, we focused on the temperature-dependent NDR phenomena. Upon cooling, the values decreased but increased (Figure 3(b)). The temperature dependence of and was different from that of other NDR phenomena observed in the tunneling diode, Gunn effect [22], or subband transition from the high mobility of a fundamental level to the low mobility of a higher subband level, where increased and decreased upon cooling [9]. In case of a molecule containing a nitroamine redox center, both the and increased upon cooling [11]. The decrement of the NSC crystal upon cooling is attributed to the thermally activated hopping conduction as described in Figure 3(a). However, the increment on cooling is difficult to understand. We suggest a possible mechanism based on thermally modulated capacitance effect of the NSC itself.

At the beginning of voltage sweeping, the current increases due to the bias voltage and then charges are accumulated in the NSC gradually like a capacitor. At , the charges are saturated in the NSC resulting in a drastic drop of the current at . For , the current exponentially increases with the increase of the bias voltage. This is called a thermal current [22]. During backward sweeping from to 0 V, the current decreases exponentially, which follows the trace of a thermal current. In this process, hysteresis and discharging occur. As a negative bias voltage is applied, the same behavior is exhibited with an opposite polarity of charge. This results in symmetric NDR behavior with respect to the bias voltage.

In order to confirm that the charge storage is the dominant factor for the NDR of the NSC, we applied a different voltage ( ) at the beginning of sweeping (Figure 4(a)). When started from the negative voltage (black line, from −1.0 V to +1.0 V), the peak in the negative voltage region did not appear. On the other hand, when the was positive (red line, from +1.0 V to −1.0 V), the peak in the positive voltage region was not exhibited. Nonezero over means that a large number of charges are already stored in the NSC. Therefore, NDR was not observed. This is similar to the previous literature on ZnO nanowires [23]. In case of a consecutive sweep from −1.0 V to + 1.0 V and to −1.0 V, we found two peaks as expected (Figure 4(b)).

The decrease of with the temperature can be understood by the thermally activated mobility, [24]; here, and are the prefactor and activation energy, respectively. This indicates that the mobility increases exponentially with the temperature and charges are more easily moved. At low temperature, an additional electrical potential, compared with high temperature, is necessary to fully store the charge in the sample. Hence, the increases as the temperature decreases.

4. Conclusions

In summary, the temperature-dependent symmetric NDR phenomenon in the NSC crystal has been investigated. As the temperature decreases, the increases but decreases. We consider the thermally modulated capacitance effect of the NSC as the origin of the NDR behavior.


This work was supported by the Incheon National University Research Grant in 20130418.