Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Small ... smaller ... smallest? ASU researchers create molecular diode

Recently, at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, N.J. Tao and collaborators have found a way to make a key electrical component on a phenomenally tiny scale. Their single-molecule diode is described in this week's online edition of Nature Chemistry.

In the electronics world, diodes are a versatile and ubiquitous component. Appearing in many shapes and sizes, they are used in an endless array of devices and are essential ingredients for the semiconductor industry. Making components including diodes smaller, cheaper, faster and more efficient has been the holy grail of an exploding electronics field, now probing the nanoscale realm.

Smaller size means cheaper cost and better performance for electronic devices. The first generation computer CPU used a few thousand transistors, Tao says noting the steep advance of silicon technology. "Now even simple, cheap computers use millions of transistors on a single chip."

But lately, the task of miniaturization has gotten much harder, and the famous dictum known as Moore's law—which states that the number of silicon-based transistors on a chip doubles every 18-24 months—will eventually reach its physical limits. "Transistor size is reaching a few tens of nanometers, only about 20 times larger than a molecule," Tao says. "That's one of the reasons people are excited about this idea of molecular electronics."

Diodes are critical components for a broad array of applications, from power conversion equipment, to radios, logic gates, photodetectors and light-emitting devices. In each case, diodes are components that allow current to flow in one direction around an electrical circuit but not the other. For a molecule to perform this feat, Tao explains, it must be physically asymmetric, with one end capable of forming a covalent bond with the negatively charged anode and the other with the positive cathode terminal.

The new study compares a symmetric molecule with an asymmetric one, detailing the performance of each in terms of electron transport. "If you have a symmetric molecule, the current goes both ways, much like an ordinary resistor," Tao observes. This is potentially useful, but the diode is a more important (and difficult) component to replicate (Fig 1).

The idea of surpassing silicon limits with a molecule-based electronic component has been around awhile. "Theoretical chemists Mark Ratner and Ari Aviram proposed the use of molecules for electronics like diodes back in 1974," Tao says, adding "people around world have been trying to accomplish this for over 30 years."

Most efforts to date have involved many molecules, Tao notes, referring to molecular thin films. Only very recently have serious attempts been made to surmount the obstacles to single-molecule designs. One of the challenges is to bridge a single molecule to at least two electrodes supplying current to it. Another challenge involves the proper orientation of the molecule in the device. "We are now able to do this—to build a single molecule device with a well defined orientation," Tao says.

The technique developed by Tao's group relies on a property known as AC modulation. "Basically, we apply a little periodically varying mechanical perturbation to the molecule. If there's a molecule bridged across two electrodes, it responds in one way. If there's no molecule, we can tell."

The interdisciplinary project involved Professor Luping Yu, at the University of Chicago, who supplied the molecules for study, as well as theoretical collaborator, Professor Ivan Oleynik from the University of South Florida. The team used conjugated molecules, in which atoms are stuck together with alternating single and multiple bonds. Such molecules display large electrical conductivity and have asymmetrical ends capable of spontaneously forming covalent bonds with metal electrodes to create a closed circuit.

The project's results raise the prospect of building single molecule diodes – the smallest devices one can ever build. "I think it's exciting because we are able to look at a single molecule and play with it, " Tao says. "We can apply a voltage, a mechanical force, or optical field, measure current and see the response. As quantum physics controls the behaviors of single molecules, this capability allows us to study properties distinct from those of conventional devices."

Chemists, physicists, materials researchers, computational experts and engineers all play a central role in the emerging field of nanoelectronics, where a zoo of available molecules with different functions provide the raw material for innovation. Tao is also examining the mechanical properties of molecules, for example, their ability to oscillate. Binding properties between molecules make them attractive candidates for a new generation of chemical sensors. "Personally, I am interested in molecular electronics not because of their potential to duplicate today's silicon applications, " Tao says. Instead, molecular electronics will benefit from unique electronic, mechanical, optical and molecular binding properties that set them apart from conventional semiconductors. This may lead to applications complementing rather than replacing silicon devices.

Written by Richard Harth
Biodesign Institute Science Writer

Richard Harth | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>