Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have invented a new type of electronic switch capable of performing logic-electronic functions within a single molecule.
Dr. Moshe Nahamani
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have invented a new type of electronic switch capable of performing logic-electronic functions within a single molecule. The use of such unimolecular components may allow the development of tiny, fast, and more energetically efficient electronic components than those that exist today. The research findings were published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
"This innovative switch outperforms existing developments based on single molecules," says University of Pittsburgh physics and chemistry professor Hrvoje Petek. "We are learning how to minimize the components of electronic circuits to single molecules for the development of improved and more stable technologies."
The switch was discovered following experiments with a triple cluster of three metal atoms held together by a single nitrogen atom, when this system is entirely confined within a cage composed of carbon atoms only. The researchers discovered that the metal clusters enclosed within a hollow carbon cage are able to switch between several structures following the initiation of the electrons within them. This exchange changes the molecule's ability to conduct an electric current, and thus switching between multiple logic states is obtained without changing the spherical structure of the carbon cage. The lead researcher explains that this idea also protects the molecule so that it is able to function without the influence of outside chemicals. Thanks to their stable spherical structure, the prototype molecular switches can be integrated as atom-like building blocks of one nanometer in size within parallel computer structures.
The prototype was demonstrated with the help of the Sc3N@C80 molecule located between two electrodes consisting of a flat copper oxide and a sharp tungsten tip. Following the application of voltage, the Sc3N molecule, organized in the structure of an equilateral triangle, is able to switch predictably between six defined logic states.