Molecular rectifier composed of DNA with high rectification ratio enabled by intercalation

Cunlan Guo, Kun Wang, Elinor Zerah-Harush, Joseph Hamill, Bin Wang, Yonatan Dubi, Bingqian Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The predictability, diversity and programmability of DNA make it a leading candidate for the design of functional electronic devices that use single molecules, yet its electron transport properties have not been fully elucidated. This is primarily because of a poor understanding of how the structure of DNA determines its electron transport. Here, we demonstrate a DNA-based molecular rectifier constructed by site-specific intercalation of small molecules (coralyne) into a custom-designed 11-base-pair DNA duplex. Measured current-voltage curves of the DNA-coralyne molecular junction show unexpectedly large rectification with a rectification ratio of about 15 at 1.1 V, a counter-intuitive finding considering the seemingly symmetrical molecular structure of the junction. A non-equilibrium Green's function-based model - parameterized by density functional theory calculations - revealed that the coralyne-induced spatial asymmetry in the electron state distribution caused the observed rectification. This inherent asymmetry leads to changes in the coupling of the molecular HOMO-1 level to the electrodes when an external voltage is applied, resulting in an asymmetric change in transmission.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)484-490
Number of pages7
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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