MANHASSET, NY Researchers from Yale University and the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea have successfully created a transistor made from a single molecule.
The researchers showed that a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts could behave just like a silicon transistor.
They were able to manipulate the molecule's different energy states depending on the voltage they applied to it through the contacts. By doing so, they were able to control the current passing through the molecule.
The team included Mark Reed, the Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Engineering & Applied Science at Yale whose previous research in the 1990s demonstrated that individual molecules could be trapped between electrical contacts.
Since then, he and Takhee Lee, a former Yale postdoctoral associate and now a professor at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, developed additional techniques over the years that allowed them to "observe" what was happening at the molecular level.
Key developments to the work were fabricating the electrical contacts on small scales, identifying the ideal molecules to use, and figuring out where to place them and how to connect them to the contacts.
"There were a lot of technological advances and understanding we built up over many years to make this happen," Reed said in a statement.
Reed stressed that this is strictly a scientific breakthrough and that practical applications are many decades away.
"We have fulfilled a decade-long quest and shown that molecules can act as transistors."
The research results were published in the December 24, 2009 issue of the journal Nature.