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June 03, 2005

A molecule sized transistor?!?

From SFGate.com:

Researchers at the University of Alberta are reporting a breakthrough in the development of molecular transistors, devices that function on the atomic scale and could lead to a quantum leap in computer miniaturization.

The results of the work by a team led by Robert Wolkow, a physics professor at the university and the program leader for Canada's National Institute for Nanotechnology, are being published today in the journal Nature.

Wolkow said his team demonstrated that a molecule could be controllably charged by a single atom while all adjacent atoms remained neutral.

The molecule thus becomes a nanotech version, Wolkow said, of a common transistor -- the device used to control the flow of electricity in virtually all electronic equipment. But the difference between current commercial transistors and Wolkow's creation is one of mind-boggling scale: Transistors now on the market use a minimum of perhaps a million atoms to accomplish their work.

Every year I hear about new “breakthroughs” from clothing that makes you invisible to teleportation. They're interesting, but rarely do I see them put into some kind of functional use.

Wolkow said there are major obstacles that must be overcome before his molecular transistor can be applied to commerce.

"Obviously, we can't use an electron tunneling microscope for every transistor," he said. For one thing, he said, it would be impossible to incorporate such bulky devices, "and each one would cost $1 million."

Nevertheless, it's fun to imagine...

Posted by Danny Carlton at June 3, 2005 07:38 AM

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