Circuits could be shrunk to the size of a sand grain

Scientists are edging towards ‘single—molecule electronics’, which would shrink circuits in computers, smart phones, audio players and other devices to the size of a sand grain.

Their breakthrough is a method for creating and attaching the tiny wires that will connect molecular components.

Yuji Okawa from the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan and colleagues write: “The key to single—molecule electronics is connecting functional molecules to each other using conductive nanowires.”

“This involves two issues: how to create...nanowires at designated positions, and how to ensure chemical bonding between the nanowires and functional molecules,” reports the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

That challenge has stymied many researchers, who have struggled to produce wires small enough to use in molecular circuits, according to a National Institute statement.

Scientists now demonstrate a method that uses the tip of a scanning, tunnelling microscope to jump—start the formation of a molecule chain.

The chain or “wire” spontaneously chemically bonds with other molecular components in the circuit under construction, a process that Okawa and colleagues dub “chemical soldering”.

The wiring method can be used to connect molecular switches, memory bits, and transistors. The scientists say their technique “will enable us to develop cheaper, higher—performance, and more ecological alternatives to conventional silicon—based devices”.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 6:51:06 AM |

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