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

y the conductance of a junction between gold electrodes and bipyridinea benzene-like ring molecule containing nitrogen. The experimental data showed two stable conductance states, unlike anything seen previously. Working closely with Venkataraman and collaborators, Quek hypothesized the peaks corresponded to two states with different structures within the junction. During the next year, Quek and Neaton meticulously constructed a theory that could describe the conductance of junctions arranged vertically between two gold molecules and sandwiched at angles.

The story that emerged was surprisingly detailed: if bipyridine bonded at an angle, more current could flow compared with when the bipyridine bonded vertically. This suggests the conductance of bipyridine was linked to the molecule's orientation in the junction, explained Quek. In the STM experiment, as you pull, just after the final strand of gold atoms breaks and snaps back, the vertical gap is not big enough for bipyridine, so it bonds at an angle. As the gap increases, the molecule jumps to a vertical configuration, causing the conductance to plummet abruptly. Eventually, the molecule straightens even more, and the contact breaks. "Once we determined this, we wondered, 'could you reverse this behavior?'" said Quek.

Teaming with Venkataraman and collaborators, Quek and Neaton demonstrated why pushing the junction to an angle and pulling it straight could repeatedly alter the conductance, creating a mechanical switch with well defined 'on' and 'off' states. "One of the fascinating things about this experiment is the degree to which it is possible to control the 'alligator clips'," said Neaton. "For this particular molecule, bipyridine, experiments can reproducibly and reliably alter these atomic-scale features back and forth to switch the conductance of the junction."

Quek and Neaton hope to refine and apply their theoretical framework to more complex molecular junctions for study of
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Contact: Aditi Risbud
ASRisbud@lbl.gov
510-486-4861
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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