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Researchers discover a potential on-off switch for nanoelectronics
Date:3/3/2009

Berkeley, CA - As electronic circuits shrink from finely etched lines in silicon wafers to nearly elusive proportions, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Columbia University are studying how electrons flow through a molecular junctiona nanometer scale circuit element that contacts gold atoms with a single molecule. Their findings reveal the electrical resistance through this junction can be turned 'on' and 'off' simply by pushing and pulling the junctiona feature that could be used as a switch in nanoscale electronic devices.

"To design circuit elements at the molecular scale, we need to understand how the intrinsic properties of a molecule or junction are actually connected to its measured resistance," said Jeff Neaton, Facility Director of the Theory of Nanostructured Materials Facility in the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy User Facility located at Berkeley Lab that provides support to nanoscience researchers around the world. "Knowing where each and every atom is in a single-molecule junction is simply beyond what's possible with experiments at this stage. For these sub-nanometer scale junctionsjust a handful of atomstheory can be valuable in helping interpret and understand resistance measurements."

In traditional electronic devices, charge-carrying electrons diffuse through circuits in a well-understood fashion, gaining or losing energy through transactions with impurities or other particles they encounter. Electrons at the nanoscale, however, can travel by a mechanism called quantum tunneling in which, due to the small length scales involved, it becomes possible for a particle to disappear through an energy barrier and suddenly appear on the other side, without expending energy. Tracking such 'tunneling' of electrons through individual molecules in nanoscale devices has proven difficult.

"For more than a decade, researchers have been 'wiring up
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Contact: Aditi Risbud
ASRisbud@lbl.gov
510-486-4861
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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