Single-molecule switches have the potential to shrink computing circuits dramatically, but new results from the Arizona State University lab that first described how to wire a single molecule between gold contacts now show that laboratory-standard wired molecules have an unavoidable tendency to "blink" randomly.
In the May 30, 2003, Science, Stuart Lindsay and colleagues identify the cause of this blinking behavior as random, temporary breaks in the chemical bond between the wired molecule and the gold contacts, making this particular wired-molecule arrangement unsuitable for electronic circuits. The National Science Foundation, the federal government agency responsible for supporting all areas of science and engineering, supported the research.
"There is a substantial interest in building single-molecule switches for molecular computing," said Lindsay, a professor of biophysics. "The observation from scanning tunneling microscopes is that these wired molecules blink on and off. It was assumed that this was due to some property of the molecules, and if that behavior could be controlled, they could be used as molecular switches." The various molecules examined typically blink once every 30 seconds to four minutes.
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