Microscopic observation of single molecules is a rapidly expanding field in chemistry and differs from conventional characterization techniques that require a large number of molecules. One of such form of single-molecule microscopy is high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM), which is especially suitable for coordination compounds because of its atomic number-dependent contrast. However, to date, single-molecule observations using HAADF-STEM has limited to simple planar molecules. In the present study, we demonstrate a direct structural investigation of nonplanar dendronized polynuclear Ir complexes with subnanometer resolution using Ir as an atomic label. Decreasing the electron dose to the dendrimer complexes is critical for the single-molecule observation. A comparison with simulated STEM images of conformational isomers is performed to determine the most plausible conformation. Our results enlarge the potential of electron microscopic observation to realize structural analysis of coordination macromolecules, which has been impossible with conventional methods.
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