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Adsorption-induced chiral resolution of organic molecules is important due to its potential applications in stereo-selective catalysis. We studied the adsorption-induced chiral resolution using a model achiral molecule of 4,4′ biphenyl dicarboxylic acid (BPDA) on Au(111) in 0.1 M perchloric acid (HClO4) by electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy (EC-STM). Our experimental data showed that the BPDA molecules formed island structures with distinctive preferred orientations at the length scale of the molecular size. The molecules did not show any orientational ordering above the length scale, indicating that chiral resolution was absent in the aqueous environment. Previously, the molecules were found to have chiral resolution on Au(111) in ultra-high vacuum conditions (UHV). We calculated angle-dependent binding energy between the substrate and a BPDA molecule, the intermolecular interactions between the BPDA molecules, and their interactions with water molecules. The calculations suggest that the absence of chiral resolution in the aqueous environment originated from the decrease in the intermolecular energy of the BPDA molecules due to their hydrogen bonds with the surrounding water molecules. The strength of the hydrogen bonding between BPDA molecules was sufficient to overcome the energy barrier for chiral resolution through rotational motion in UHV, but not in an aqueous environment.

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NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Surface Science. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Surface Science [Volume 606, Issue 15-16 (2012)]. DOI: 10.1016/j.susc.2012.04.027

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