Charlie Sykes

Department of Chemistry
Pearson Chemistry Laboratory
62 Talbot Avenue
Tufts University 
Medford, MA 02155 

Office: X-103

Tel: 617-627-3773   Fax: 617-627-3443

E-mail: charles.sykes@tufts.edu

Research Homepage

Current Appointment


Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry




Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2004-05, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC
Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2002-04, Pennsylvania State University, PA
Ph.D., 2002, Cambridge University, UK
BS/MS, 1998, Oxford University, UK


Research Interests


Physical Chemistry, Surface Science, and Nanoscience.  A main focus of the Sykes group is the development of a nanoscale model system and its use in exploring the fundamental limits of thermally and electrically driven molecular rotation. The thioether backbone constitutes an excellent test bed for studying the details of molecular rotation at the single molecule level. By using low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy (LTSTM), they are able to record the dynamics of individual molecular rotors at the atomic scale. They have investigated how small, simple thioether molecules function as molecular rotors and are beginning to devise methods for turning them into molecular motors.  Thioether molecules are just 1 nm across and composed of two carbon chains connected to either side of a sulfur atom. These molecules rotate randomly in 3D space, but when anchored to a gold surface through the central sulfur atom, the molecules rotate like a propeller. At very low temperatures (20 Kelvin), the molecules transition between a locked or “frozen” state to one in which they spin at over one million times per second. They are currently learning how to unidirectionally “drive” the molecules electrically by exciting them with electrons supplied by the STM tip. The system has also led us to exciting chiral analogues which have asymmetric torsional potentials that will be utilized to drive highly directional motion. Dr. Sykes work has also allowed the pursuit of a unique aspect of monitoring and inducing symmetry breaking at the single-molecule level.


Selected Recent Publications

"Experimental Demonstration of a Single-Molecule Electric Motor", H. L. Tierney, C. J. Murphy, A. D. Jewell, A. E. Baber, E. V. Iski, H. Y. Khodaverdian, A. F. McGuire, N. Klebanov and E. C. H. Sykes, Nature Nanotechnology, 2011, 6, 625-629. 


"The Extraordinary Stability Imparted to Silver Monolayers by Chloride", E. V. Iski, M. El-Kouedi, D. O. Bellisario, C. Calderon, F. Wang, T. Ye and E. C. H. Sykes, Electrochim. Acta, 2011, 56, 1652-1661.

"Regular Scanning Tunneling Microscope Tips can be Intrinsically Chiral",  H. L. Tierney, C. J. Murphy and E. C. H. Sykes, Phys. Rev. Lett., 2011, 106, 010801.


"Gently Lifting Gold's Herringbone Reconstruction: Trimethylphosphine on Au(111)" A. D. Jewell, H. L. Tierney and E. C. H. Sykes, Phys. Rev. B, 2010, 82, 205401.


"Adsorption Site Distributions on Cu(111), Cu(221), and Cu(643) as Determined by Xe Adsorption",  L. Baker, B. Holsclaw, A. E. Baber, H. L. Tierney, E. C. H. Sykes, A. J. Gellman, J. Phys. Chem. C2010, 114, 18566-18575.


"Surface-Mediated Two-Dimensional Growth of the Pharmaceutical Carbamazepine",  E. V. Iski, B. F. Johnston, A. J. Florence, A. J. Urquhart, E. C. H. Sykes, ACS Nano, 2010, 4, 5061-5068.

"Dynamics of Molecular Adsorption and Rotation on Nonequilibrium Sites", H. L. Tierney, A. D. Jewell, A. E. Baber, E. V. Iski, E. C. H. Sykes, Langmuir, 2010, 26, 15350-15355.

"Adsorption, Assembly, and Dynamics of Dibutyl Sulfide on Au{111}", D. O. Bellisario, A. D. Jewell, H. L. Tierney, A. E. Baber, E. C. H. Sykes, J. Phys. Chem. C, 2010, 114, 14583-14589.


"Chirality and Rotation of Asymmetric Surface-Bound Thioethers", H. L. Tierney, J. W. Han, A. D. Jewell, E. V. Iski, A. E. Baber, D. S. Sholl, E. C. H. Sykes, J. Phys. Chem. C, 2010, 115, 897-901.


Time-Resolved Studies of Individual Molecular Rotors', A. D. Jewell, H. L. Tierney, A. E. Baber, E. V. Iski, M. M. Laha and E. C. H. Sykes, J. Phys, Cond. Mat, 2010, 22, 264006.

"Atomic-Scale Geometry and Electronic Structure of Catalytically Important Pd/Au Alloys", A. E. Baber, H. L. Tierney and E. C. H. Sykes, ACS NANO, 2010, 4, 1637-1645.


Complete listing of publications can be found HERE.

Selected Media & E/PO Links

- Boston Museum of Science Podcast "World's Smallest Motor" 21 Oct 2011


- BBC Radio 4's interview with Charlie Sykes on the Today Programme 5 Sept 2011


- Sykes group YouTube video "Exploring Nanoscale Machines" 17 Aug 2010


- Erin Iski et al.,"Education in Chemistry" YouTube Video 13 June 2008