Manipulating molecules for a new breed of electronics

When electrical devices are shrunk to a molecular scale, both electrical and mechanical properties of a given molecule become critical. Specific properties may be exploited, depending on the needs of the application. Here, a single molecule is attached at either end to a pair of gold electrodes, forming an electrical circuit, whose current can be measured.

This new research could help adjust the conductive properties of materials leading to all kinds of new products – Deskarati

In research recently appearing in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, Nongjian “NJ” Tao, a researcher at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, has demonstrated a clever way of controlling electrical conductance of a single molecule, by exploiting the molecule’s mechanical properties.

Such control may eventually play a role in the design of ultra-tiny electrical gadgets, created to perform myriad useful tasks, from biological and chemical sensing to improving telecommunications and computer memory.

Tao leads a research team used to dealing with the challenges entailed in creating electrical devices of this size, where quirky effects of the quantum world often dominate device behavior. As Tao explains, one such issue is defining and controlling the electrical conductance of a single molecule, attached to a pair of gold electrodes.

“Some molecules have unusual electromechanical properties, which are unlike silicon-based materials. A molecule can also recognize other molecules via specific interactions.” These unique properties can offer tremendous functional flexibility to designers of nanoscale devices.

In the current research, Tao examines the electromechanical properties of single molecules sandwiched between conducting electrodes. When a voltage is applied, a resulting flow of current can be measured. A particular type of molecule, known as pentaphenylene, was used and its electrical conductance examined.

Tao’s group was able to vary the conductance by as much as an order of magnitude, simply by changing the orientation of the molecule with respect to the electrode surfaces. Specifically, the molecule’s tilt angle was altered, with conductance rising as the distance separating the electrodes decreased, and reaching a maximum when the molecule was poised between the electrodes at 90 degrees.

via Manipulating molecules for a new breed of electronics.

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