Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Meet the high-performance single-molecule diode

30.07.2015

Major milestone in molecular electronics scored by Berkeley Lab and Columbia University team

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University has passed a major milestone in molecular electronics with the creation of the world's highest-performance single-molecule diode.


Schematic of the molecular junction created using asymmetric area electrodes which functions as a diode, allowing current to flow in one direction only.

courtesy of Berkeley Lab and Columbia University

Working at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility, the team used a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution to create a single-molecule diode that outperforms the best of its predecessors by a factor of 50.

"Using a single symmetric molecule, an ionic solution and two gold electrodes of dramatically different exposed surface areas, we were able to create a diode that resulted in a rectification ratio, the ratio of forward to reverse current at fixed voltage, in excess of 200, which is a record for single-molecule devices," says Jeff Neaton, Director of the Molecular Foundry, a senior faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and the Department of Physics at the University of California Berkeley, and a member of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute at Berkeley (Kavli ENSI).

"The asymmetry necessary for diode behavior originates with the different exposed electrode areas and the ionic solution," he says. "This leads to different electrostatic environments surrounding the two electrodes and superlative single-molecule device behavior."

With "smaller and faster" as the driving mantra of the electronics industry, single-molecule devices represent the ultimate limit in electronic miniaturization. In 1974, molecular electronics pioneers Mark Ratner and Arieh Aviram theorized that an asymmetric molecule could act as a rectifier, a one-way conductor of electric current. Since then, development of functional single-molecule electronic devices has been a major pursuit with diodes - one of the most widely used electronic components - being at the top of the list.

A typical diode consists of a silicon p-n junction between a pair of electrodes (anode and cathode) that serves as the "valve" of an electrical circuit, directing the flow of current by allowing it to pass through in only one "forward" direction. The asymmetry of a p-n junction presents the electrons with an "on/off" transport environment.

Scientists have previously fashioned single-molecule diodes either through the chemical synthesis of special asymmetric molecules that are analogous to a p-n junction; or through the use of symmetric molecules with different metals as the two electrodes. However, the resulting asymmetric junctions yielded low rectification ratios, and low forward current. Neaton and his colleagues at Columbia University have discovered a way to address both deficiencies.

"Electron flow at molecular length-scales is dominated by quantum tunneling," Neaton explains. "The efficiency of the tunneling process depends intimately on the degree of alignment of the molecule's discrete energy levels with the electrode's continuous spectrum. In a molecular rectifier, this alignment is enhanced for positive voltage, leading to an increase in tunneling, and is reduced for negative voltage. At the Molecular Foundry we developed an approach to accurately compute energy-level alignment and tunneling probability in single-molecule junctions. This method allowed myself and Zhenfei Liu to understand the diode behavior quantitatively."

In collaboration with Columbia University's Latha Venkataraman and Luis Campos and their respective research groups, Neaton and Liu fabricated a high-performing rectifier from junctions made of symmetric molecules with molecular resonance in nearly perfect alignment with the Fermi electron energy levels of the gold electrodes. Symmetry was broken by a substantial difference in the size of the area on each gold electrode that was exposed to the ionic solution. Owing to the asymmetric electrode area, the ionic solution, and the junction energy level alignment, a positive voltage increases current substantially; a negative voltage suppresses it equally significantly.

"The ionic solution, combined with the asymmetry in electrode areas, allows us to control the junction's electrostatic environment simply by changing the bias polarity," Neaton says. "In addition to breaking symmetry, double layers formed by ionic solution also generate dipole differences at the two electrodes, which is the underlying reason behind the asymmetric shift of molecular resonance. The Columbia group's experiments showed that with the same molecule and electrode setup, a non-ionic solution yields no rectification at all."

The Berkeley Lab-Columbia University team believes their new approach to a single-molecule diode provides a general route for tuning nonlinear nanoscale-device phenomena that could be applied to systems beyond single-molecule junctions and two-terminal devices.

"We expect the understanding gained from this work to be applicable to ionic liquid gating in other contexts, and mechanisms to be generalized to devices fabricated from two-dimensional materials," Neaton says. "Beyond devices, these tiny molecular circuits are petri dishes for revealing and designing new routes to charge and energy flow at the nanoscale. What is exciting to me about this field is its multidisciplinary nature - the need for both physics and chemistry - and the strong beneficial coupling between experiment and theory.

"With the increasing level of experimental control at the single-molecule level, and improvements in theoretical understanding and computational speed and accuracy, we're just at the tip of the iceberg with what we can understand and control at these small length scales."

Neaton, Venkataraman and Campos are the corresponding authors of a paper describing this research in Nature Nanotechnology. The paper is titled "Single-molecule diodes with high rectification ratios through environmental control." Other co-authors are Brian Capozzi, Jianlong Xia, Olgun Adak, Emma Dell, Zhen-Fei Liu and Jeffrey Taylor.

###

This research was primarily supported by the DOE Office of Science and the National Science Foundation. Portions of the computation work were performed at National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility also hosted at Berkeley Lab.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more, visit http://www.lbl.gov.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit the Office of Science website at science.energy.gov/.

Media Contact

Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375

 @BerkeleyLab

http://www.lbl.gov 

Lynn Yarris | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Energy Molecular asymmetric diodes electrode electrodes ionic single-molecule diode tunneling voltage

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled
24.04.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht Scientists generate an atlas of the human genome using stem cells
24.04.2018 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled

24.04.2018 | Life Sciences

Scientists create innovative new 'green' concrete using graphene

24.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

24.04.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>