Smallest Conceivable Switch Demonstrated
ScienceDaily (Dec. 12, 2011)— For a long time miniaturization has been the magic word in electronics. Dr. Willi Auwaerter and Professor Johannes Barth, together with their team of physicists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), have now presented a novel molecular switch in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Decisive for the functionality of the switch is the position of a single proton in a porphyrin ring with an inside diameter of less than half a nanometer. The physicists can set four distinct states on demand.
Although the respective positions of the hydrogen atoms influence neither the basic structure of the molecule nor its bond to the metallic surface, the states are not identical. This small but significant difference, taken together with the fact that the process can be arbitrarily repeated, forms the basis of a switch whose state can be changed up to 500 times per second. A single tunneled electron initiates the proton transfer.
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