Such control may eventually play a role in the design of ultra-tiny electrical gadgets, created to perform myriad useful tasks, from biological and chemical sensing to improving telecommunications and computer memory.
Tao leads a research team used to dealing with the challenges entailed in creating electrical devices of this size, where quirky effects of the quantum world often dominate device behavior. As Tao explains, one such issue is defining and controlling the electrical conductance of a single molecule, attached to a pair of gold electrodes.
”Some molecules have unusual electromechanical properties, which are unlike silicon-based materials. A molecule can also recognize other molecules via specific interactions.” These unique properties can offer tremendous functional flexibility to designers of nanoscale devices.
In the current research, Tao examines the electromechanical properties of single molecules sandwiched between conducting electrodes. When a voltage is applied, a resulting flow of current can be measured. A particular type of molecule, known as pentaphenylene, was used and its electrical conductance examined.
Tao’s group was able to vary the conductance by as much as an order of magnitude, simply by changing the orientation of the molecule with respect to the electrode surfaces. Specifically, the molecule’s tilt angle was altered, with conductance rising as the distance separating the electrodes decreased, and reaching a maximum when the molecule was poised between the electrodes at 90 degrees.
The reason for the dramatic fluctuation in conductance has to do with the so-called pi orbitals of the electrons making up the molecules, and their interaction with electron orbitals in the attached electrodes. As Tao notes, pi orbitals may be thought of as electron clouds, protruding perpendicularly from either side of the plane of the molecule. When the tilt angle of a molecule trapped between two electrodes is altered, these pi orbitals can come in contact and blend with electron orbitals contained in the gold electrode—a process known as lateral coupling. This lateral coupling of orbitals has the effect of increasing conductance.
In the case of the pentaphenylene molecule, the lateral coupling effect was pronounced, with conductance levels increasing up to 10 times as the lateral coupling of orbitals came into greater play. In contrast, the tetraphenyl molecule used as a control for the experiments did not exhibit lateral coupling and conductance values remained constant, regardless of the tilt angle applied to the molecule. Tao says that molecules can now be designed to either exploit or minimize lateral coupling effects of orbitals, thereby permitting the fine-tuning of conductance properties, based on an application’s specific requirements.
A further self-check on the conductance results was carried out using a modulation method. Here, the molecule’s position was jiggled in 3 spatial directions and the conductance values observed. Only when these rapid perturbations specifically changed the tilt angle of the molecule relative to the electrode were conductance values altered, indicating that lateral coupling of electron orbitals was indeed responsible for the effect. Tao also suggests that this modulation technique may be broadly applied as a new method for evaluating conductance changes in molecular-scale systems.
The research was supported by the Department of Energy—Basic Energy Science program.In addition to directing the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors, Tao is a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering, at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and an affiliated professor of chemistry and biochemistry, physics and material engineering.
Joseph Caspermeyer | EurekAlert!
Programming cells with computer-like logic
27.07.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics
27.07.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Life Sciences
27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine