Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have created a single molecule with a logic gate function similar to that seen in transistors. The breakthrough might pave the way for molecular-scale electric components in the future. The findings were reported in the journal Nature Communications.
In both research and development, manufacturing extremely tiny components is a significant difficulty. One example is transistors — the smaller they get, the quicker and more energy efficient our computers become. Is there, however, a limit to how tiny logic gates can get? Is it even conceivable to build electric devices at the molecular level? A chemical research team at Lund University has responded with a tentative yes.
“When subjected to electric current, we designed a simple hydrocarbon molecule that changes its shape and moves from insulating to conductive. The winning technique included creating an anti-aromatic ring in a molecule to make it more resistant and capable of receiving and relaying electrons “Daniel Strand, a chemical professor at Lund University, agrees.
Aromatic benzene rings, or flat rings made up of six carbon atoms, are found in many organic compounds. Graphene is a basic example. When exposed to electric potential, however, such molecules do not alter their characteristics or form. Therefore, the study group opted to examine at hydrocarbons made composed of rings containing eight carbon atoms. These are anti-aromatic and shaped like a tub. When two electrons are introduced into a molecule like this, it flattens and switches from insulating to conducting, analogous to a transistor going from 0 to 1.
“The fact that the molecules are so simple is one of their distinguishing features. They are made up entirely of carbon and hydrogen atoms, making them simpler to synthesize “Daniel Strand agrees.
Researchers may now consider how anti-aromatic hydrocarbons might be used to construct both electrical switches and novel mechanical systems at the single-molecule level as a result of the finding.
“Exciting possibilities arise from molecules that alter shape in response to electric potential. Energy-efficient computer systems are possible, as are electric devices on a molecular scale in the future “Daniel Strand comes to a conclusion.