When amazing new computers and other electronic devices emerge, they will have been conceived and incubated in university laboratories like that of Dr. Chris Gorman, professor of chemistry at North Carolina State University. There, the scientist and his multidisciplinary team are working to build, molecule by molecule, a nanoscale transistor.
A patterned collection of molecules
created and visualized using scanning tunneling microscopy like that used to help create the nanoscale transistor.
Data collected by R. Fuierer
That’s an electronic switch so small it can only be seen with a high-tech device called a scanning tunneling microscope. And if you go to the library to find the “how-to” book, says Gorman, “most of the pages will be blank, because nobody yet knows how to do it.”
And that, for the chemists, engineers and students engaged in the project, is what makes their painstaking, pioneering research so satisfying. If they can design and construct a nanoscale transistor, Gorman, his colleagues and his students will have filled in many of the blank pages in the how-to book. The field is so new, the research avenues so unexplored, that each experiment, each variation, helps write that book.
Paul K. Mueller | NC State University
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