Single-atom transistor is end of Moore’s Law

The smallest transistor ever built — in fact, the smallest transistor that can be built — has been created using a single phosphorus atom by an international team of researchers at the University of New South Wales, Purdue University and the University of Melbourne. The single-atom device was described Sunday (Feb. 19) in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Michelle Simmons, group leader and director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication at the University of New South Wales, says the development is less about improving current technology than building future tech.

“This is a beautiful demonstration of controlling matter at the atomic scale to make a real device,” Simmons says. “Fifty years ago when the first transistor was developed, no one could have predicted the role that computers would play in our society today. As we transition to atomic-scale devices, we are now entering a new paradigm where quantum mechanics promises a similar technological disruption. It is the promise of this future technology that makes this present development so exciting.”

Gerhard Klimeck, who directed the Purdue group that ran the simulations, says this is an important development because it shows how small electronic components can be engineered. “To me, this is the physical limit of Moore’s Law,” Klimeck says. “We can’t make it smaller than this.”

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