Sensor provides new approach to molecule detection on silicon surfaces

Sep 25, 2013 by Rosie Hales
Sensor provides new approach to molecule detection on silicon surfaces
Benedict Drevniok worked with Alastair McLean to research how molecules attach to silicon surfaces.

Alastair McLean and Benedict Drevniok from the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy and their collaborators have found a way to "feel" the surface of silicon molecules at the molecular level.

This new "sense of touch" could mean a solution to the long-standing problem of producing clear images of silicon surfaces with a (STM).

Closely examining silicon surfaces has become increasingly important over the years as nearly all microelectronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops, are made from silicon-containing microchips.

"Our method provides information about how attach to silicon surfaces," says Dr. McLean. "Providing this information will assist researchers designing devices that exploit the rich properties for organic materials."

While microelectronics are silicon-based, organic materials have a wide-range of physical properties that could be utilized in microelectronic devices.

Images from the STM are produced by passing tiny currents between a metal probe tip and a surface or molecule. It was previously difficult to get clear images of molecules on silicon surfaces because they can't conduct electrical currents well.

McClean and Drevniok have mounted the tip used for STM onto a sharp tuning fork to create what they call a qPlus sensor that allows for the chance to "feel" the presence of molecules on the surface and to differentiate molecules from the similar-looking missing .

"The qPlus sensor gives us a sense of touch that we didn't have before," says Alastair McLean, professor in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. "This approach is analogous to feeling the presence of a piece of furniture in a dark room.

Using the sensor is a preferable method when it comes to viewing molecules on silicon surfaces as it is less invasive as there is a smaller chance of interfering with the or moving them. The new method will simplify the research needed to develop the silicon-containing microchips needed for various micro-electronic devices.

Explore further: Researchers overcome technical hurdles in quest for inexpensive, durable electronics and solar cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Graphene decoupling of organic/inorganic interfaces

Jun 19, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Cryogenic ultrahigh vacuum scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) was employed by researchers in the Center for Nanoscale Materials Electronic & Magnetic Materials & Devices Group at the Argonne ...

Controlling friction by tuning van der Waals forces

Jul 19, 2013

For a car to accelerate there has to be friction between the tire and the surface of the road. The amount of friction generated depends on numerous factors, including the minute intermolecular forces acting between the two ...

Recommended for you

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

Apr 16, 2014

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

Wiring up carbon-based electronics

Carbon-based nanostructures such as nanotubes, graphene sheets, and nanoribbons are unique building blocks showing versatile nanomechanical and nanoelectronic properties. These materials which are ordered ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...