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Aussie, Finnish Researchers Create a Single-Atom Transistor

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the for-small-transitions dept.

Science 96

ACKyushu writes "Researchers from Helsinki University of Technology (Finland), University of New South Wales (Australia), and University of Melbourne (Australia) have succeeded in building a working transistor whose active region comprises only a single phosphorus atom in silicon. The results have just been published in Nano Letters. The working principles of the device are based on sequential tunneling of single electrons between the phosphorus atom and the source and drain leads of the transistor. The tunneling can be suppressed or allowed by controlling the voltage on a nearby metal electrode with a width of a few tens of nanometers."

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96 comments

Moore's Law Extended? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342296)

Doesn't this mean that current limits set on Moore's Law (based on todays known restrictions?) might be pushed a bit further down the road?

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (2, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342314)

Well, at least this seems to set an ultimate limit to Moore's law, since it's not very easy to go to less than one atom per transistor.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342352)

I dunno. A few years ago, one of my supervisors was involved in a group that was using lasers to shape the electron clouds of single atoms. I gather they could make almost any shaped atom this way. An arbitrary shaped electron cloud could be quite useful for building integrated circuits within a single atom??

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (5, Insightful)

Jebinator (1360963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342362)

The devil is in the details. The "Active" region is only 1 atom wide, but the gate is still "10s of nanometers" Last I checked, the gate was still part of a transistor. We're currently mass producing with critical dimensions at 34 nanometers where I work. Granted, this is sweet, knowing that a transistor's active region can be that small. Still, the limit will really be placed on reproducibility. I mean, placing a single phos atom in the middle of a silicon chip at just the right location? That kind of technology being moved into the semiconductor industry for mass reproduction and economies of scale is still a long ways out and I personally think Moore's law will lose steam before then.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343130)

That kind of technology being moved into the semiconductor industry for mass reproduction and economies of scale is still a long ways out and I personally think Moore's law will lose steam before then.

I would say it's pretty much lost steam already. If you take a function that can't exploit multiple cores, then the single core performance has not improved much in a while. More cores is a "cheat" that extends it somewhat but I doubt 10+ cores makes any sense for end users so it won't scale much further than it already has.

The other bummer is power, even though there's a massive focus on power savings now running a CPU/GPU at 100% draws more and more power. The latest AMD offering, the HD 5950 is bumping the head into the 300W ATX limit, and most agree it's designed to overclock for more. Or it is perhaps the same bummer, since it's the main reason 10GHz+ cores aren't practical.

Fortunately, I think there'll be a lot of innovation in other areas, particularly in networking (fiber, 4G mobile broadband), storage (SSD) and form factor (think iPhone, Wii controller, OLED displays and whatnot).

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (2, Interesting)

Bruha (412869) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343990)

10GHz cores are not something you want to sit next to without proper shielding it's possible you could be burned. It was a concern back when we were approaching single core 5GHz before the dual core processors came out and everyone was speculating we would be at 10GHz in 3-5 years. That was about 6 years ago I believe.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343178)

The article states that the goal is to produce a quantum gate out of the single atom. If such a gate could be produced reliably and operate on controllable quantum states, then particular classes of problems could be solved dramatically faster. The promise doesn't lie in pushing existing technologies to be smaller, it's to supplement them with quantum computing capability.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344594)

The devil is in the details. The "Active" region is only 1 atom wide, but the gate is still "10s of nanometers" Last I checked, the gate was still part of a transistor. We're currently mass producing with critical dimensions at 34 nanometers where I work.

Yeah, that's the first thing of thought of when I read the title. If I'm understanding correctly the gate is of dimension [1 atom x 10s of nm]. That's still damn impressive. I guess now the work has to come down to dropping that 10s of nm into the handful of atoms range.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (5, Funny)

MathiasRav (1210872) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342500)

Well, at least this seems to set an ultimate limit to Moore's law, since it's not very easy to go to less than one atom per transistor.

Yes, a single atom should be small enough for everyone.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342656)

Well, at least this seems to set an ultimate limit to Moore's law, since it's not very easy to go to less than one atom per transistor.

Reckon it is time to start working on a Matrioshka brain [wikipedia.org] to ensure our future computing needs are covered.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342958)

Who says? I imagine with certain atoms you could include the functionality of multiple transistors in one atom. Or use smaller atoms. We are getting closer though :p

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342994)

Not very easy to achieve does not equal "ultimate limit". I though we'd have a major paradigm shift by now, but the current one just won't die. I'm not making any bets anymore...

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343384)

Right, there's a couple of ways that it could go, one would potentially be to subatomic particles, another would be to using 1 atom as multiple transistors. Or possibly one could start making the chips themselves larger again. Moore's law itself just speaks to the number of transistors on the chip that can be placed inexpensively in an integrated circuit, not to the size itself. The reason for the shrinking has been that for efficiency reasons you want the path of the electrons to be as short as possible and the larger the chip itself typically the more difficult it is to keep the yield up of highly delicate chip designs.

That being said, since Moore's law isn't an actual law, it will eventually come to an end. On the plus side this has gone so far that when it does come to an end it's likely going to be largely a moot point. As we'll probably end up needing a new law to cover the case when we're dealing with quantum computing. But at anyrate, even the cheap computer in front of me can do a hell of a lot.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347646)

Um, you could still play with the wave function of a electron surrounding the atom. ^^
Or just go to single photons.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (0)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30351378)

Greetings! My name is Miriam Mbongo-Fleischmann, widow of late scientist Stanley Fleischmann. I have several half atom transistors developed by my late husband!

Please send me your social security number, credit card number, Pay Pal user name and password and I will FedEx them to you

Yours in Christ!

Miriam Mbongo-Fleischmann

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (5, Informative)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342566)

Notice that this discovery was NOT published in Nature. Wonder why? Here's why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hendrik_Sch%C3%B6n [wikipedia.org] . Stay skeptical, wait for replication.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343214)

What the fuck does this have to do with anything? Yeah, I know you yankee dickheads aren't geniuses at geography, and that you probably thought that Finland is a province of Germany and that since there is only one researcher in Europe (the rest of them are fishermen), this dude from Germany and the dude in Finland is proooooobably the same guy, but guess what - it isn't. (Oh? That's not it? You have a real argument? Then why didn't you present it in the first place you fucking dickhead?)

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343656)

did you forget to take your clozapine when you woke up today honey? it's the little orange pill, mkkkkkk?

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343526)

Just because one researcher commits the "biggest fraud in physics in the last 50 years" that happens to involve transistors doesn't mean all such research is fradulent and there is no reason at all from your link to be more skeptical than normal about this research.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (2)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343802)

"Just because one researcher commits the "biggest fraud in physics in the last 50 years" that happens to involve transistors doesn't mean all such research is fradulent and there is no reason at all from your link to be more skeptical than normal about this research."

Ahhh, a swing and miss, I felt the wind from that one though! I'm afraid that you (and the schizophrenic raving lunatic AC responding just before you) are making rather unwarranted assumptions about my comment. I never suggested "all such research is fradulent [sic]". I am suggesting that in a field where the science is currently progressing at breakneck speed and is consequently ferociously competitive, at the absolute cutting edge of the cutting edge of materials science and single atom manipulation, a breakthrough discovery as important and consequential as this needs to demonstrate replicability before the provisional acceptance warranted by the evidence in this paper alone can be elevated to the level of confident belief in the phenomenon being demonstrated. So yes, there is rational reason to be a little "more skeptical than normal about this research" because extraordinary claims require demonstration of a commensurate (ie. more than normal) level of extraordinary evidence in their favor before being accepted as solid fact. This is how science and rational skepticism works. Trust, but verify.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

jesusfr3Ak (1693850) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343114)

Interesting question. Moore's Law [wikipedia.org] originally spoke to the number of transistors on a single chip. So you could argue that we would have to make bigger chips to keep up. However, I believe the intent of Moore's Law is in the computing power. So, once we have reached asymptote on the size spectrum, I wouldn't imagine an end to an increase in power.

Re:Moore's Law Extended? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344522)

Perhaps you could also make a transistor out of nitrogen, which would be smaller than the phosphorus atom. Or maybe they'll discover a way to make a transistor out of sub-atomic particles and even have multiple transistors per atom.

Trademark already taken (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342322)

Intel already has Atom processors.

Re:Trademark already taken (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342590)

... and the Acorn Atom predates both.

Re:Trademark already taken (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342966)

The Hydrogen and Helium atoms, predate all 3... by a fair bit. Though I imagine it is our of patent/copyright by now unless the US laws get realllllly screwed up in the near future.

All very well and good.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342338)

but let me guess.
something mass produced based on this in.... 5 to 10 years?

Overclocking (1)

cntThnkofAname (1572875) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342350)

Perhaps I can reach over 9000 Ghz ...

European Accomplishments in Science (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342462)

Europeans have achieved amazing results in science and technology. A German and a Brit co-invented calculus. A team of Germans invented the guided missile. Numerous Germans, French men and women, British men and women, etc. built most of humankind's knowledge of quantum physics: Europeans dominate the holders of the Nobel Prize in physics.

Though the Japanese are slightly less accomplished in fundamental science than the Europeans, the Japanese have done quite well in applied science -- specifically, high technology. Most patents for the modern LCD screen are owned by Japanese companies. A Japanese invented blue LED. The Japanese own most patents on hybrid automotive engines and powertrains.

Noticeably missing among scientific high achievers are Africans. Why have Africans accomplished almost nothing in science and technology?

We know that African IQ is about 20 points less than Japanese IQ. Could this IQ difference explain why Africans fail in any human endeavor that requires an understanding of advanced mathematics? Could this IQ difference explain why all nations dominated by Africans are impoverished?

Re:European Accomplishments in Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343170)

Well, Africa is mostly a warn torn country that is being exploited. Give them peace, and 20-30 years to recover and then we will have them produce high tier technology too.

Re:European Accomplishments in Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343448)

Africa is not a country, dumbfuck. You must be African.

Re:European Accomplishments in Science (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30346508)

They built a few a bombs and reactors.
Secunda the 160,000 barrels of oil a day after a coal into a liquid process.
African science is doing fine.

hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342356)

And the mistake begins where a FET(sic) is called a transistor at all.

They have merely got as close as possible to a valve, which is like the single phosphorus FET only with zero charge-transporting atoms between source and drain.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342442)

Shhh...your lampooning might give away to TFA authors that a gate a few nanometres long is part of the device. I am well under overweight if you discount all that pesky water sloshing around inside me.

The article title couldn't be more subtly misleading, the final heinous blow to precision being the replacement in the Slashdot article of "discovered" with "create(d)". How about "single atom channel FET discovered"? It is a shame, because the work is actually quite interesting.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342794)

And the mistake begins where a FET(sic) is called a transistor at all.

Then how would you call a Field Effect Transistor?

They have merely got as close as possible to a valve

No. A valve uses charge carriers (electrons) floating in a vacuum. A transistor uses either electrons or holes in a semiconducting solid as charge carriers. A semi-conducting solid is not as close as possible to a vacuum.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343062)

Then how would you call a Field Effect Transistor?

Nice try with the bolding of F,E,T. Perhaps, with your use of "how" instead of "what", you are not native English, and don't understand the use of "sic". This is often used to denote a particular term/phrase/whatever which the writer considers incorrect, but which is being quoted nevertheless as-is. The fact that a FET is called a FET doesn't mean it is a transistor, any more than the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is democratic, for the people, or a republic. You thus still call the DPRK the DPRK, as you call a FET a FET, because those happen to be the best-known names, but you don't call the DPRK a "democracy" and you don't call the FET a "transistor".

Now, the evidence, from the horses's mouth. Read the quote in the left hand column [pbs.org] by the guy who named the transistor. He named it so because it - "it" being the point contact transistor and devices descended from it, such as the modern BJT - had transfer resistance, the dual of the vacuum tube (or FET) which is defined in terms of its transfer conductance. Understand?

A semi-conducting solid is not as close as possible to a vacuum.

A substance comprising one atom is as close as possible to a substance comprising no atoms. My comment was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, designed to illustrate the danger of imprecision. In particular, the discovery is /not/ of a one-atom transistor, or even a one-atom FET, it's of a FET with a single atom channel. The other AC seemed to understand this.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343252)

Mod parent up. mangu has completely missed the point, and so, apparently, have the moderators. A fet is more similar in principle/modelling/use within a circuit to a valve than the transistor, i.e. the BJT (before commercially viable FETs even existed). The only way a FET is more similar to a transistor is the nature of the charge carriers.

Specifically:
gate = gate
cathode = source
anode = drain

A depletion mode FET allows current to flow except when the reverse bias voltage between gate and source is such as to increase the depletion enough to pinch off flow. A triode valve typically allows current to flow except when the bias voltage between gate and cathode is such as to repel all electrons back to the cathode. Either way, input resistance is high. Voltages in between vary current flow.

The basic (BJT) transistor collector-emitter current, meanwhile, is zero unless forward bias is applied on base-emitter. Once your 0.6V is applied, it is mainly base-emitter current which determines collector-emitter current. Input resistance is relatively lower.

Valves and FETs admit voltage controlled currents. They are primarily defined in terms of trans-conductance.

Transistors admit current controlled currents. They are primarily defined in terms of trans-resistance.

I am shocked that /. needs this explained.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343642)

you are not native English, and don't understand the use of "sic". This is often used to denote a particular term/phrase/whatever which the writer considers incorrect, but which is being quoted nevertheless as-is

[pedantic]"sic" is not English, it is Latin.[/pedantic]

Re:hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343860)

[pedantic]1. It was not stated that "sic" was English, merely implied that it was used by people who speak English; 2. Anyway, isn't a foreign word which has been adopted by a particular language in a particular sense part of that language? Do one or both of the English and the French have a word for "entrepreneur"?[/pedantic]

Re:hello, 100 years ago (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 4 years ago | (#30349530)

I was under the impression that sic was short for "said in context" meaning a mistake that was in the original, quoted element of the article.

Guess I was wrong :)

Re:hello, 100 years ago (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30345014)

He named it so because it - "it" being the point contact transistor and devices descended from it, such as the modern BJT - had transfer resistance, the dual of the vacuum tube (or FET) which is defined in terms of its transfer conductance. Understand?

I am an electronic engineer and am perfectly aware of the origin of the word "transistor".

I also happen to know that resistance and conductance are equivalent terms, resistance being the inverse of conductance. You can model vacuum tubes or transistors, both unipolar and bipolar, by either conductance or resistance.

However, if you want to be pedantic about the word "resistance", you should study the behavior of both bipolar transistors and FETs under saturation. Under non-saturated conditions the current in the output side of the circuit depends on the excitation in the input, this excitation being a current in the BJT and a voltage in a FET.

Under saturation the device conducts as much current as the circuit allows, normally this current is limited by an external load resistance. In these conditions a BJT behaves as a resistor whose value does not depend on the excitation current. A FET, OTOH, has a channel resistance [google.com] that varies with the voltage being applied on the gate. For depletion junction FETs this resistance is almost inversely proportional to the gate voltage and this feature has been used in analogic circuits.

Conclusion: for true gramer nazis, only FETs should be called "transfer resistors".

Re:hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30345426)

I am an electronic engineer

I am a radio amateur and have never been paid to design an electronic circuit in my life... I also like hiking, walks on the beach, and cats. Does this help or hinder my argument?

I also happen to know that resistance and conductance are equivalent terms

They are not "equivalent terms", they are dual notions. Regular conductance and resistance are related by G=1/R, sure. But we are talking about specific definitions of /transfer/ resistance and /transfer/ conductance, used in modelling transistor circuits, typical in textbooks [google.co.uk] (bottom of page 33, highlighted for you) and literature, following from the consideration of duality expressed by the originator of the name [pbs.org].

You can model vacuum tubes or transistors, both unipolar and bipolar, by either conductance or resistance.

You /can/ surely, but you don't, because it means you're undermining the mathematical notion of duality in favour of the base physical concern that the BJT happens to be built out of the same material as a FET.

Under non-saturated conditions the current in the output side of the circuit depends on the excitation in the input, this excitation being a current in the BJT and a voltage in a FET.

In a FET, or a valve. As discussed in the previous AC posts. This is precisely what is important.

However, if you want to be pedantic about the word "resistance", you should study the behavior of both bipolar transistors and FETs under saturation.

No. Your argument here is, "When I pound the BJT enough, it stops responding as it did along the main part of its characteristic, so we can ignore the main part of the characteristic entirely." That you combined with a misunderstanding of what /transfer/ resistance is. Read the textbook above.

Conclusion: for true gramer nazis, only FETs should be called "transfer resistors".

The true language Nazi would look at the person who came up with the word and consider his justification for it in context rather than substituting his own. Which is what I did :-).

(I am off to bed... do feel free to continue waxing, although I won't reappear for another 24 hours and that depends on me remembering to leave the tab open.)

Re:hello, 100 years ago (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347716)

Egocentricity FAIL!

“sic’ is Latin, and known in pretty much every language with an European origin.

Next you tell me, that Edison invented the light bulb.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30350844)

The fact that a FET is called a FET doesn't mean it is a transistor, any more than the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is democratic, for the people, or a republic.

Ah, you come from the school of redefinition, so you're trying to change the meaning of the word "transistor" to mean what will support your foolish argument. Yes, there are two types of transistor, each with different characteristics that orient towards particular applications (e.g., high-power for BJT, digital logic for FET) but to define only one of them as a "true" transistor just speaks of your ignorance. You must be a sound engineer?

Next up given how weak your argument is, you'll be raising your voice or writing in capitals.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30351110)

your foolish argument

So a justification based on an explanation from the inventor of the word is foolish and an attempt at redefinition, but one based on merely stating the counterargument then ridiculing the OP is rational.

As trolls go, I give this a B-. You started with what appears to be an intentional logical fallacy, but you quickly lost steam. You give yourself away by insulting random jobs while freely admitting through your e-mail address that you are a student at a second-rate university of common blowhards who think they hold a candle to Oxbridge and Imperial. Manchester /once/ did interesting things in computing: perhaps if you learned your history you'd also be familiar with the conceptual origins of the transistor.

Re:hello, 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30344566)

Mod parent Overrated, in the absence of a Misinformative rating.

All that is fine and all but (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342446)

Does it run Linux?

Cosmic rays (2, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342474)

If the state of a gate depends on one electron, it will be highly sensitive to radiation. So what do we do ? Embed these in large blocks of lead ?

Re:Cosmic rays (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342562)

I would think you either use the principles involved to make a slightly bigger, less sensitive transistor, or you run 10 or 20 of them in parallel and use the largest consensus.

Published in Nano Letters... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342504)

...Wouldn't that be kinda hard to read?

Re:Published in Nano Letters... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344888)

Nonsense. There's nothing I enjoy more after a hard day's work than lying in bed, firing up the electron microscope and doing a little light reading.

Imagine... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342592)

a beowulf cluster running on a mol of these! ...

No I can't. I feel empty. The sky is dusky grey, already in the early afternoon. Soon it will be dark. Still no snow. I need to take out the trash. My daughter has a fever. Happy holidays from Sweden.

stating the obvious (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342596)

Do people really need to be told where Helsinki, New South Wales, and Melbourne are?

Re:stating the obvious (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342890)

Do people really need to be told where Helsinki, New South Wales, and Melbourne are?

Yes, if they are Gringos.

Re:stating the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30347562)

If they are USA'ians they are unlikely to have nay idea where anywhere outside of the US is. Even amongst their poiliticians, only 30% have a passport.

Stories like this make Jesus cry (3, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342638)

This thingy is just a research device, just good for research. It's not a precursor of anything practical.

It's been known for many, many years that there are serious tradeoffs to be pondered when you shrink transistors (and FETs).

Your basic linear dimension versus surface area versus volume scaling laws are in full play here.

You win at first, as smaller base or gate lengths lead to more speed, and less surface area means less capacitance to charge up.

But below a certain size the rapidly shrinking cross-sectional area reaches its current-carrying capability, while noise and leakage loom large.

Right now the low-level chip designers, with their 10^12 atom transistors are already spending a large part of their time with these issues. The challenges are not going to go away, they just get larger as one attempts to shrink things even more. It's unlikely that these hard challenges can be overcome to span the million-million times distance to a true one-atom transistor.

  So don't put any big money on ever having one-atom transistors in any practical device.

Re:Stories like this make Jesus cry (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342804)

This is without mentioning that the potential for this one-atom setup to have a severely reduced usable lifespan has to be through the roof. How much force can it really take to displace one damned atom? What happens when heat and time stress everything it's connected to?

Re:Stories like this make Jesus cry (2, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342936)

So don't put any big money on ever having one-atom transistors in any practical device.

I'm old enough to remember when people said no dynamic memory chip could ever be made with more than 64 kilobits capacity. The capacitor charge would be flipped by radiation hitting the chip [wikipedia.org].

Probably this is the origin of the "640 kbytes should be enough for anybody" meme, since, with 64 kbit chips, it would be difficult to pack more than the 80 chips needed for 640 kbytes in a desktop computer.

Re:Stories like this make Jesus cry (1)

Rexdude (747457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30353272)

The 640k quote was relevant in 1981, when it seemed like a lot. It also was due to a limitation of the 8086 CPU's 20 bit address bus.Here's [si.edu] an excerpt from a 1993 interview where Gates clarifies his quote.

In real mode, the 8086 can only address 1 MB of RAM, out of which 384KB is reserved for video RAM. Hence the 640k restriction on memory (640=1024-384).
Using extended [wikipedia.org] and expanded [wikipedia.org] memory managers, it was possible for DOS programs on the 286 and higher CPUs to access memory beyond 1 MB by mapping it into pages in the upper memory area.

If you've ever played DOOM or Duke3D back in the day, you might be familiar with these :-)

One more small step... (1)

jnnnnn (1079877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343100)

Apart from the implications this might have for classical electronics, the long-term goal here is to build solid-state quantum computing devices. The phosphorus donor has one lonely electron, and that electron's spin is a good candidate for a qubit. One of the good things about P in Si is the long decoherence times -- T2 times of almost one second have been demonstrated. The phosphorus' nuclear spin of 1/2 stays coherent for hours, if we can find a way to get at it.

Of course, the NIST guys with their ion traps have demonstrated [slashdot.org] several interacting qubits, but perhaps P in Si chips might be useful as a more stable, more scalable, cheaper or smaller alternative.

Re:Stories like this make Jesus cry (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347572)

million-million

Is that the retard way of saying “trillion”?
Or do you think we are retards?

Or did you just not want to remind us of Zooey Deschanel [google.com]? :P
I like to be reminded of her, you insensitive clod!

Oh well, the “Jesus” in the subject already gave it away anyway, who’s not right in his head. ^^

Re:Stories like this make Jesus cry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30382076)

i think the 10^12 you refer to is the total number of atoms (including Si). The story refers to a single donor (P).

Ultimate Transistor... (2, Funny)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342948)

Would be designed around a Higgs Boson which would know when to come back from the future and switch with no gate delay...

Re:Ultimate Transistor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30346514)

Puts a new spin on a circuit's time constant, that's for sure

Re:Ultimate Transistor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30375398)

Brilliant idea, but it doesn't go far enough.

Imagine a system with two parts, a 'higgs calculator' and a 'result verifier' (a conventional CPU). The higgs calculator would be a simple random number generator, and the result verifier would be configured so that if the output was incorrect, a particle accelerator was activated which would record proof of the higgs boson.

Different universities cooperating (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343108)

Just curious, but how would something like get of the ground? How owuld an australian and finnish university cooperate, and why?

Re:Different universities cooperating (1)

ReneeJade (1649107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343576)

Australia and Finland are planning to take over the world, don't you know. This is just the tip of the ice-burg.

Re:Different universities cooperating (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343718)

They wanted to attempt a project that none could do alone so they emailed each other and collaborated perhaps? It is very common for Australian researchers to collaborate with scientists from other countries, I don't know why exactly, probably because it makes sense? How did this discussion get off the ground, for all we know the other is in Finland, yet we have a common ground in wanting to explain this?

Really, I'm just astounded by your question, can you give me a good reason why they wouldn't collaborate?

Re:Different universities cooperating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30343858)

I wasn't surprised at the cooperation, just wondering how it came to be.

I think it's great regardless :)

Re:Different universities cooperating (2, Insightful)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344588)

Scientists are just as online and wired as the rest of the world... they email each other, read each others papers and attend conferences regardless of nationality. Just imagine one researcher reading the usenet post or paper of someone else doing the same type of work as her... of course they will contact that person.

A real story from me was when I was at university and introduced a friend of mine(doign a PhD in microbiology) to USENET... this guy had never used or really heard of the Internet as it was quite new(and I am old :) )... A few days after showing him sci.biology(or whatever) and how to post he was so excited that he had already made contact with 4 or 5 people around the globe engaging in similar areas of research as him... It was truly an eye opener for me as to how powerful the Internet was going to be and how it would impact the world some day... alas I did not anticipate rickrolling or LOLcats...

Re:Different universities cooperating (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#30375854)

How owuld an australian and finnish university cooperate

I believe scientists are at this very moment working on something called the "internet" which allows the transmission of messages and data across vast distances at the speed of light.

It could be huge.

tom (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343560)

The active part is a single atom of Phosphorus ? While it might sound like you could get high density circuits with that, I hope they plan on using water cooling, given that phosphorus tends so spontaneously combust.

Re:tom (2, Informative)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344422)

FWIW, phosphorous will burn water. It pulls the oxygen away from the hydrogen. So in my high school chem lab it was stored under kerosene instead. Quite mind boggling at the time.

So if you're going to worry about spontaneous combustion, perhaps you should cool your computer with kerosene rather than water.

Re:tom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30345316)

Kerosene, really? That's crazy, most labs I've seen just use mineral oil.

Re:tom (1)

Amanitin (1603983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30346244)

This is not true. You can extinguish burning (white) phosphorus with water. Trouble is, after the water runs off it will self ignite again on contact with air above 30 degrees C.
Its this one allotrope out of many that is highly reactive, and single atoms embedded in silicon have hardly anything to do with the character of a bulk of the pure element.

Which Font? (2, Funny)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | more than 4 years ago | (#30345780)

"The results have just been published in Nano Letters."

I'm guessing that'd be a Times New Roman 0.0000001 pt font then? Damn, I left my scanning electron reading glasses at home today.

Picoyoctostructural Modeling for Single Atom Gates (0, Offtopic)

symmecon (1667267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30350802)

Now the nanotechnical analyses are returning innovation in step with the scale, and the next generation of ULSIC chips is emerging with sparkling clarity. Data density is the key factor in nano/picoscale progress, the Finnish-Australian achievement shows. If the femtoscale horizon can be challenged that will give talented researchers like these the control over the crucial topological features of electrons, energy, and force fields to utilize quantum effects and relativistic factors. Exact mathematical modeling by 3D interactive atomic wavefunction calculations is the infodense method capable of timely research turnaround and advanced single-atom analysis and design work. New components depend on that type of virtual atom model over SEM/AFM optical techniques to generate relevant research data on the picoyoctoscale topology of individual atoms. Recent advancements in quantum science have produced the picoyoctometric, 3D, interactive video atomic model imaging function, in terms of chronons and spacons for exact, quantized, relativistic animation. This format returns clear numerical data for a full spectrum of variables. The atom's RQT (relative quantum topological) data point imaging function is built by combination of the relativistic Einstein-Lorenz transform functions for time, mass, and energy with the workon quantized electromagnetic wave equations for frequency and wavelength. The atom labeled psi (Z) pulsates at the frequency {Nhu=e/h} by cycles of {e=m(c^2)} transformation of nuclear surface mass to forcons with joule values, followed by nuclear force absorption. This radiation process is limited only by spacetime boundaries of {Gravity-Time}, where gravity is the force binding space to psi, forming the GT integral atomic wavefunction. The expression is defined as the series expansion differential of nuclear output rates with quantum symmetry numbers assigned along the progression to give topology to the solutions. Next, the correlation function for the manifold of internal heat capacity energy particle 3D functions is extracted by rearranging the total internal momentum function to the photon gain rule and integrating it for GT limits. This produces a series of 26 topological waveparticle functions of the five classes; {+Positron, Workon, Thermon, -Electromagneton, Magnemedon}, each the 3D data image of a type of energy intermedon of the 5/2 kT J internal energy cloud, accounting for all of them. Those 26 energy data values intersect the sizes of the fundamental physical constants: h, h-bar, delta, nuclear magneton, beta magneton, k (series). They quantize atomic dynamics by acting as fulcrum particles. The result is the picoyoctometric, 3D, interactive video atomic model data point imaging function, responsive to keyboard input of virtual photon gain events by relativistic, quantized shifts of electron, force, and energy field states and positions. Images of the h-bar magnetic energy waveparticle of ~175 picoyoctometers are available online at http://www.symmecon.com/ [symmecon.com] with the complete RQT atomic modeling manual titled The Crystalon Door, copyright TXu1-266-788. TCD conforms to the unopposed motion of disclosure in U.S. District (NM) Court of 04/02/2001 titled The Solution to the Equation of Schrodinger.
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