Melbourne, Jan 13 (ANI): Scientists from the US and South Korea have managed to create the world's smallest transistor from only six atoms of carbon suspended between two gold electrodes.
A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals, and it is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices.
The molecular model, described in the journal Nature, is at the moment more of a scientific discovery than a technological breakthrough.
But if such transistors are proven possible, they could help create smaller computer chips for consumer devices that stay cooler by not wasting energy.
The key is not so much the transistor's size, but in how efficiently it transfers energy.
"People always thought the end game was making transistors small," ABC Science quoted Professor Mark Reed of Yale University who helped design the new transistor, as saying.
"That's really not the problem; it's how much power they dissipate, and one way to modify that is by using different transport devices," he explained.
Reed and his colleagues created two molecular transistors; one that worked, and one that didn't work nearly as well.
The one that didn't work very well was made of eight carbon atoms strung together in a line with hydrogen atoms hanging off the sides, like a clothes line with eight wooden pins stuck at even intervals along its length.
Electricity travelled along the string, but it took a lot of power to push even a small amount through the alkane string - too much power to make an efficient transistor.
For the second model, the researchers took six carbon and hydrogen atoms and twisted them into a circle - creating a molecule of benzene. In this form, the electrical current flowed with ease, up one gold electrode, through the carbon atoms, and down the other gold electrode.
Twisting the carbon atoms into a ring brings the carbons electrons closer together, so that the carbon atoms can actually share electrons with each other. Those shared electrons let an electrical current run through with relative ease.
A transistor smaller than one nanometre is a scientific breakthrough, but not a technological one.
"If I take this result and go to IBM and ask what they think, they will answer that it's interesting, but it won't help us," Reed said.
Modern silicon commercial transistors can reach down to about 45 nanometres in size, even smaller in specialised research laboratories.
But when put together the tiny transistors can still heat up computer chips as energy is being lost during transfer.
"Making one is great, showing how it works is fabulous," James Kushmerick, a scientist at the National Institutes for Standards and Technology said.
"But you need thousands of them interconnected with a high success rate to create a computer," he added.
The technology to create that many interconnected benzene transistors doesn't exist right now, and likely won't for at least another 10 years, but Kushmerick is still excited about what he calls a "huge scientific breakthrough". (ANI)