Researchers created transistor using single benzene molecule

Integrated circuits are nearing the limitation of how small they can be constructed using conventional means. Over the coming years new technologies will be needed for the march towards ever smaller circuits and processors to continue.

In November 2009, researchers developed new semiconducting nanowires that will allow more transistors to be placed on future computer chips. Scientists have now succeeded in creating a transistor using a single molecule. The research team includes scientists from Yale University and the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.

Researchers including Mark Reed from Yale were able to demonstrate that a single benzene molecule attached to gold contacts could behave like a traditional silicon transistor. The energy states of the molecules are able to be manipulated depending on the voltage applied to the contracts. The manipulation of the energy state allows the researchers to control the current passing through the molecule.

Reed said, "It's like rolling a ball up and over a hill, where the ball represents electrical current and the height of the hill represents the molecule's different energy states. We were able to adjust the height of the hill, allowing current to get through when it was low, and stopping the current when it was high."

The new breakthrough was possible by building on research that Reed conducted in the 1990's that showed individual molecules could be trapped between electrical contacts. The use of molecules as transistors is very appealing because it is not feasible at this time to create traditional transistors at such small scales.

However, the researchers point out that functional computers using the techniques are decades away. Reed said, "We're not about to create the next generation of integrated circuits. But after many years of work gearing up to this, we have fulfilled a decade-long quest and shown that molecules can act as transistors."

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