New concept for single molecule transistor

Jun 01, 2005
New concept for single molecule transistor

Molecular electronics – using molecules in the construction of electronic circuitry – just took a significant step closer to reality. Principal investigator Dr. Robert Wolkow, postdoctoral fellow Dr. Paul Piva and a team of researchers from the National Institute for Nanotechnology of the National Research Council and University of Alberta have designed and tested a new concept for a single molecule transistor. They have shown, for the first time, that a single charged atom on a silicon surface can regulate the conductivity of a nearby molecule. Their discovery is published in the June 2, 2005 edition of the scientific journal Nature.

Image: Electric field emanating from the charged red atom causes energy level shifts in the molecule allowing current to flow. (Courtesy of the National Research Council of Canada)

Miniaturization of microelectronics has a finite end based on today’s technology. To continue, a new concept was needed which circumvented the limits of conventional transistor technology. The authors conducted an experiment to examine the potential for electrical transistors on a molecular scale. Their approach has solved what has been an insurmountable hurdle to making a molecular device – getting connections onto a single molecule.

They demonstrated that a single atom on a silicon surface can be controllably charged, while all surrounding atoms remain neutral. A molecule placed adjacent to that charged site is ‘tuned’, which allows electrical current to flow through the molecule from one electrode to another. The current flowing through the molecule can be switched on and off by changing the charge state of the adjacent atom. The results are promising and are considered to be a scientific breakthrough.

“We have shown the potential for devices of unheard-of smallness and unheard-of efficiency.� says Dr. Wolkow. “A technology based on this concept would require much less energy to power, would produce much less heat, and run much faster.

Molecules are exceedingly small, on the scale of a nanometre. Wolkow’s team solved the connection problem by using the electrostatic field emanating from a single atom to regulate the conductivity of a molecule, allowing an electric current to flow through the molecule. These effects were easily observed at room temperature, in contrast to previous molecular experiments that had to be done at temperatures close to absolute zero in order to measure a conductivity change. Another significant aspect of this breakthrough is the fact that only one electron from the atom is needed to turn molecular conductivity on or off. On a conventional transistor, this gating action requires about one million electrons.

“This concept could circumvent the limits of conventional transistor technology and permit miniaturization on a nanometric scale. Better…faster…cheaper – that’s the promise of molecular electronics. In our case, we also have a potentially powerful green technology because of its minimal power and material requirements, and the biodegradable nature of the device.�

Wolkow, a world-renowned researcher in nanotechnology, says that although his results represent a key step toward molecular electronics, more steps are required. He advocates doing research on hybrid molecular/silicon devices. “This way, we can piggyback on all the great capacity that has already been established for silicon, and just supplement it. Our prototype works on silicon – thus allowing the old technology to merge with the new. “

“I am optimistic that molecular electronic devices can be made using our method because I don’t see a reason why the remaining hurdles can’t be overcome. And given the promise of such devices – great speed, small size, and high efficiency – the hurdles are definitely worth tackling.�

Publication:
Field Regulation of Single Molecule Conductivity by a Charged Surface Atom
Nature, 02 June 2005

Paul G. Piva1,2, Gino A. DiLabio2, Jason L. Pitters2, Janik Zikovsky1,
Mohamed Rezeq1,2, Stanislav Dogel1, Werner A. Hofer3 & Robert A. Wolkow1,2

1 Department of Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2 National Institute for Nanotechnology, National Research Council of Canada, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
3 Surface Science Research Centre, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

Source: University of Alberta

Explore further: Nanoscale worms provide new route to nano-necklace structures

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Snowflakes become square with a little help from graphene

19 hours ago

The breakthrough findings, reported in the journal Nature, allow better understanding of the counterintuitive behaviour of water at the molecular scale and are important for development of more efficient techno ...

How water molecules dance to activate proteins

Mar 17, 2015

An international team of researchers has shed light on the molecular mechanism behind the importance of water for functional protein dynamics. The scientists have discovered that water's ability to flow on the ...

Recommended for you

Designer's toolkit for dynamic DNA nanomachines

Mar 26, 2015

The latest DNA nanodevices created at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM)—including a robot with movable arms, a book that opens and closes, a switchable gear, and an actuator—may be intriguing ...

Chemists make new silicon-based nanomaterials

Mar 26, 2015

Chemists from Brown University have found a way to make new 2-D, graphene-like semiconducting nanomaterials using an old standby of the semiconductor world: silicon.

Simple method of binding pollutants in water

Mar 26, 2015

New types of membrane adsorbers remove unwanted particles from water and also, at the same time, dissolved substances such as the hormonally active bis-phenol A or toxic lead. To do this, researchers at the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.