US scientists have developed a method of controlling single-molecule switches that could become central to the manufacture of next-generation nano-computers.
The research team, led by scientists at Penn State University, Rice University, and the University of Oregon, showed that single-molecule switches can be tailored to respond in predictable and stable ways, depending on the direction of the electric field applied to them.
It was possible to demonstrate that, while some switches were engineered to
turn on, others were engineered to turn off in response to the same applied
The discovery, has been heralded as "an essential step" in the emerging field of molecular electronics.
"This research confirms our hypothesis of how single-molecule switches work, " said Penn State Professor of Chemistry and Physics Paul S. Weiss, whose lab tested the molecules.
"Molecular switches may eventually become integrated into real electronics, but not until someone discovers a way to wire them."
The research is the latest achievement in the team's ongoing studies of a family of stiff, stringy molecules known as as oligo phenylene-ethynylenes (OPEs) which the scientists have tailored to have a variety of physical, chemical and electronic characteristics.
The potential for using these OPE molecules as switches had been limited by their troublesome tendency to turn on and off at random, but Weiss and his colleagues recently discovered a way to reduce this random switching.
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