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Friday, June 03, 2005

Molecular Electronics: One Step Closer

I recently came across this press release, from the University of Alberta. Its contents are quite startling and -- if true (and I have no reason to believe that they aren't) -- suggest that the field of molecular electronics has just taken another big step in the direction of replacing the traditional transistor.

To be sure, this won't happen anytime soon but a number of advances in the press release are worth noting. First, the researchers demonstrated that a single atom on a silicon surface can be controllably charged. Second, the process for controlling these atoms can take place at room temperature. And third, only one atom is needed to turn molecular conductivity on or off. To understand how significant the latter is consider that on a conventional transistor this gating action requires about one million electrons. The potential to reduce the amount of energy need to operate such a molecular device would be significantly less than today's state-of-the-art circuit.

The bottom-line is that this research provides further proof that molecular electronics continues to hold great promise for the development of better, faster and cheaper electronics.

In the interim, look for this research this to be incorporated into the work that Hewlett-Packard and others are doing in the field of molecular electronics and possibly lead to hybrid silicon/molecular devices by the end of the decade.