The emerging field of molecular electronics -- using nanoscale molecules as key components in computers and other electronic devices -- is in excellent health and has a bright future, conclude UCLA, Caltech and University of California, Santa Barbara, chemists who assess the field in the Dec. 17 issue of the journal Science. "Molecular electronics is in its infancy, and its adolescence and adulthood will be very exciting as we push toward the promise of molecular electronics: smaller, more versatile and more efficient," said Amar Flood, a UCLA researcher in Fraser Stoddarts supramolecular chemistry group, and lead author of the Science paper. "The combination of active molecules with electronic circuitry is opening up exciting new areas of science," Flood said. "It is too early to predict precisely what will come from this marriage, but we expect that the unique properties of molecules, including sight, taste and smell, may be put to very good effect by marrying them with silicon."
The first applications are likely to involve hybrid devices that combine molecular electronics with existing technologies, such as silicon, said Stoddart, director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), who holds UCLAs Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences. Molecular electronic components are already working, say Stoddart, Flood and co?authors James R. Heath, who is Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor of Chemistry at Caltech and a member of CNSIs scientific board; and David Steuerman, a CNSI postdoctoral fellow in physics at University of California, Santa Barbara. For example, logic gates, memory circuits, rectifiers, sensors and many other fundamental components have been demonstrated to work. Progress toward incorporating molecules as the active components in electronic circuitry has advanced rapidly over the past five years. Heath describes the progress as "real and rapid."
"We have published 64-bit random access memory circuits using bistable rotaxane molecules as the memory elements, and we are in the process of fabricating a 16-kilobit memory circuit at a density of devices that far exceeds current technology," Heath said. "On a Moores Law graph, our memory circuit is at a density of Intel-like circuits that will be manufactured decades from now." "Dreams I was having less than a decade ago are becoming a reality in our labs," said Stoddart, whose areas of expertise include nanoelectronics, mechanically interlocked molecules, molecular machines, molecular nanotechnology, molecular self-assembly processes and molecular recognition, among many other fields of chemistry. "Although many classes of molecules can be used for molecular electronics, only a small percentage of these have been assessed so far," Flood said.
Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!
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