Molecular self-assembly constitutes a versatile strategy for creating functional structures on surfaces. Tuning the subtle balance between intermolecular and molecule-surface interactions allows structure formation to be tailored at the single-molecule level. While metal surfaces usually exhibit interaction strengths in an energy range that favors molecular self-assembly, dielectric surfaces having low surface energies often lack sufficient interactions with adsorbed molecules. As a consequence, application-relevant, bulk insulating materials pose significant challenges when considering them as supporting substrates for molecular self-assembly. Here, the current status of molecular self-assembly on surfaces of wide-bandgap dielectric crystals, investigated under ultrahigh vacuum conditions at room temperature, is reviewed. To address the major issues currently limiting the applicability of molecular self-assembly principles in the case of dielectric surfaces, a systematic discussion of general strategies is provided for anchoring organic molecules to bulk insulating materials.
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