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Scientists Create First Functional Molecular Transistor

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the ever-smaller dept.

Science 57

Dananajaya Ramanayake sends along this excerpt from Wired: "Nearly 62 years after researchers at Bell Labs demonstrated the first functional transistor, scientists say they have made another major breakthrough. Researchers showed the first functional transistor made from a single molecule. The transistor, which has a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts, could behave just like a silicon transistor. The molecule's different energy states can be manipulated by varying the voltage applied to it through the contacts. And by manipulating the energy states, researchers were able to control the current passing through it."

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Benzene is a blast ! (1, Funny)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556164)

Now when they say "those games are killing your social life" it can be held as literal as well as figurative.

Re:Benzene is a blast ! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556698)

How is that? You realize that the Benzene needs to get into your body to be dangerous. It can't be both on a chip and flying off the chip and into your lungs at the same time. Not if the chip is to continue to function, that is.

Re:Benzene is a blast ! (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30561116)

Its when kids are beating there game consoles with a bat when their photorealism FPS freezes up since theres a scratch on the quartz sapphire hybrid memory cube, thus rendering 3.7 TB of game data unreadable, and they can't finish the campeign, and the read error exposes a bug which causes there GGS(Google Gamer Stats) ratings to go from 150,000, to -740,000 after just 1 read error, thus loosing 9 months of hard work.

But of course its 2020, and they have other things to worry about other than a little Benzene, like meteorites which have been falling from the sky for the past 7 years(An event known as the "Impact" when half the moon was hit by a large object and continues to send fragments into the earth), Communism has taken over the world, and we are all hooked up to life support since 94% of the microbes that used to be in us 40,000 years ago have Died off [slashdot.org]

Re:Benzene is a blast ! (0, Flamebait)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573292)

I was about to ask you to not post on Slashdot any more. However, I rethought that and figured this was the safest place (for the rest of us) for you to hang out.

Thanks, Slashdot!

I'll take a mole (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556202)

or two, if the price is right. ;~) However, right now, it smells like vaporware.

Re:I'll take a mole (3, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556588)

However, right now, it smells like vaporware.

I hate to break it to you, but it could only be "vaporware" if they had actually announced a product.

This is what is commonly referred to as "scientific research". It will, in and of itself, never produce a product. However, what WILL happen is Bell Labs begins working on turning this accomplishment into a manufacturable product. As was noted in the article, this is probably still a decade or more away from reality.

When Bell scientists produced the first vacuum tube transistor in 1947, they didn't suddenly have super-computers in 1948. It took years of developement after that initial breakthrough to produce computers at a realistic price (millions of dollars at the time for less computing power than a $2 calculator).

The same thing will happen here, and in a decade or two our world will yet again be unrecognizeable from what it is today.

Re:I'll take a mole (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556662)

*WHHOOOOOSSSHHHHH*

I've always wanted to do that.

Re:I'll take a mole (2, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556714)

*Facepalm*

Re:I'll take a mole (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30557030)

LOL, I just knew someone had beaten me to it as soon as I saw it.

Re:I'll take a mole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30557210)

Mod parent -1, no sense of humor. Grandparent obviously talked of molecules --> smell.

Re:I'll take a mole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30558172)

Apparently you've never heard of Hendrik Schon, the man behind one of the biggest scientific frauds in history. In fact I'm slightly skeptical of this single molecule transistor, because this is the same work that Schon had to retract due to fraud.

See J. H. Schön, H. Meng, Z. Bao, Field-effect modulation of the conductance of single molecules, Science 294, 2138 (2001) (Retracted)

When will this appear in consumer electronics? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556262)

And I have the same question for the memristor. Both look very interesting to me.

Re:When will this appear in consumer electronics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556470)

This, probably +15 years considering the complexity of getting such a system to be built in mass quantities and live up against all the noise from the outsides.

Memristors? Hopefully 10 years.
At the moment, they are undergoing tests for how efficient they are and how long they can last against wear and tear.
They should almost certainly kill off Flash when they come about.

Re:When will this appear in consumer electronics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30557258)

> They should almost certainly kill off Flash when they come about.

Silverlight and HTML5 should do that long before 10 years... nyuk nyuk!

Re:When will this appear in consumer electronics? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556628)

If you'd read the entire summary it would have answered your question: a decade or two.

This is the initial breakthrough discovery, a useable product will be a long way off. I think the summary underestimates the drive to maintain or beat Moore's Law a bit, and we'll see the molecular transistor in action in less than 20 but more than 10 years.

Benzene? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556270)

So what happens when the Benzene evaporates away? Does it take your bits with it?

Re:Benzene? (0)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556310)

C-x M-c M-butterfly

Re:Benzene? (1)

illumastorm (172101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556334)

The benzene molecule is trapped between the contacts, so its not likely to break free and evaporate any time soon.

Re:Benzene? (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556494)

I don't think you can call a single molecule a liquid in order for it to be said to evaporate.

Re:Benzene? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556534)

I don't think you can call a single molecule a liquid in order for it to be said to evaporate.

No but it's bigger than Bill Gate's penis. He didn't name his company "Micro Soft" for no reason y'know... As to how Steve got the last name "Jobs", well, that's an exercise for the reader to err, blow through. yeah.

Re:Benzene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556648)

was that the best you could come up with? fuck, i don't know if anyone even chuckled at that

Re:Benzene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30557728)

was that the best you could come up with? fuck, i don't know if anyone even chuckled at that

I know. We didn't.

Re:Benzene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556710)

Wow. Troll fail.

Re:Benzene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30561256)

I got a good laugh out of that, thx

Another question (3, Interesting)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556300)

How stable is it? This would drastically lower the costs of production and effectively approach the size limit of a transistor, but for something that they purport to use in supercomputing applications, they'll have to find a way to make it last a long time. That's the hurdle that's preventing most organic devices (LEDs, PVs, TFTs).

Long way to go here.

Re:Another question (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556358)

Last a long time? Are you kidding? That's exactly what the corporations want, things that expire naturally after 5 years!

Re:Another question (1)

lordmetroid (708723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556616)

Unless their is a selection of longevity in the evolutionary process of market competition.

Re:Another question (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30557730)

Yeah, the title never said "mass produced supercmputing computer using molecular sized transistors, widely available now at best buy(tm)". No buddy, it said, 'first time ever that a single molecule sized transistor has been built". It took a lot (long long way) to get here. You can yelp about 'long way to go', but getting 'here' was a bitch. You may have missed that part. In order to get to the moon, man had to learn how to fly. In order to fly, needed to know about aerodynamics, motors, engineering. It wasn't a 'we have fire, but I still can't go to the moon, dammit, call me when I can go to the moon". Its a step at a time. Sorry if you can't jump into your hovercar and fly to Jupiter for burger and fries yet. Maybe you can hold your breath until we get there, then we'll call you. K? The rest of us will recognise the importance of this while do nothing but bitch and complain. When you finally get it (gee you had to wait a long time, what took those people so long!!!), then you can buy devices with these transistors, and still watch the clock flash 12:00 day and night.

Feature Size (4, Interesting)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556350)

This would make a feature size of about 0.3nm?

Re:Feature Size (2, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556378)

.3nm would be about 13 generations from now if they keep scaling down transistors at 2^.5, which would be at least 20+ years from now in everyday usage.

Re:Feature Size (2, Funny)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30557480)

I even hear it runs duke nukem forever.

Definitely interesting, but I am asking myself... (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556374)

Seems quite interesting but:

1) Organic molecules can be quite large so it could not necessarily be a better option to current manufacturing processes.

2) The original linked article states that "The possibility of using organic components with enzyme stimulated responses has some interesting possiblities" and I am wondering how much is reality and how much is possibility.

Re:Definitely interesting, but I am asking myself. (3, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556696)

1) Current manufacturing process are struggling to get transistors any smaller than millions of molecules each, and Benzine, the molecule specifically used here, is not very big.

2) Any manufactured product using this discovery is yet to be invented. Such a product is still a decade or two away. In other words, nothing other than the existance of a molecular transister is a reality, and everything else is a possibility. Duh. "Interesting Possibilities" drive science, it's mostly what these guys look for. They leave actually producing things with their discoveries to engineers.

Re:Definitely interesting, but I am asking myself. (4, Informative)

Tesla Tank (755530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30560134)

1) Current manufacturing process are struggling to get transistors any smaller than millions of molecules each, and Benzine, the molecule specifically used here, is not very big.

The current state of the art manufacturing process is at 32nm, which is much less than millions of molecules each. 32nm is 320 angstrom, so we're at roughly 300 molecules size.

Re:Definitely interesting, but I am asking myself. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#30560468)

"1) Current manufacturing process are struggling to get transistors any smaller than millions of molecules each"

What fucked up math are you using? In fact, where are you pulling those numbers from? Sources?

From TFA: (2, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556480)

"The transistor, which has a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts, could behave just like a silicon transistor." It isn't clear how large the transistor as a whole is. A benzene molecule is pretty small with only 12 atoms. That presumably isn't the entire transistor. Whether they mean benzene attached to something else isn't clear from the article. However, given that prior small transistors are on the order of 10s of atoms thick at minimum, this seems like a major improvement. It looks like Moore's law will live for a bit longer yet.

Re:From TFA: (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556540)

"The transistor, which has a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts, could behave just like a silicon transistor." It isn't clear how large the transistor as a whole is. A benzene molecule is pretty small with only 12 atoms. That presumably isn't the entire transistor. Whether they mean benzene attached to something else isn't clear from the article. However, given that prior small transistors are on the order of 10s of atoms thick at minimum, this seems like a major improvement. It looks like Moore's law will live for a bit longer yet.

I'd assume that this is significantly better (smaller) than existing/economical technology, else it wouldn't have become a headline. But thanks to slow news days, I've been wrong about that before.

Re:From TFA: (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30558654)

the only problem is to mass produce such devices one needs nano assemblers, as of 2009 only carbon nanotubes have been low yeild production. i for one would love for us to forget moores law and instead focus on needed technology for these things now not 20 years. moores law just mass produces garbage, so lets forget moores law and just build the smartest technology now, and not wait for coal to run out.

Re:From TFA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30557096)

A silicon atom is about 200 pm long. A transistor is about 7 features long, so at 40nm per feature, a transistor is about 1000 atoms by 1000 atoms.

Observation of molecular orbital gating (3, Informative)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556656)

Re:Observation of internet pay wall (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 4 years ago | (#30556818)

Looks interesting but behind pay wall.
Any related free links?

Re:Observation of internet pay wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30559274)

pdf: http://bit.ly/8yzijS

la la la filter buster text goes here

Re:Observation of molecular orbital gating (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#30560482)

Access

To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right).

Fuck your link. Be more handy and provide a working usable link.

New processor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556734)

What are they going to call this thing? Not the "atom"!

Not the first! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556780)

Seems remarkably similar to what other researchers have already done:

03 Dec 2009
"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 composes only of a single phosphorus atom in silicon. The results have just been published in Nano Letters."

http://www.tkk.fi/en/current_affairs/news/view/yhden_atomin_transistori_loydetty/

Misleading, as expected (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30556814)

For anyone interested in the actual paper, it's H. Song, et al., Nature 462 p. 1039-1043

As a (biased) researcher in the field, my opinion of this is that it is no more than an attention grab and will do little to advance science (this is pretty typical of Nature papers, though):

1. The contacts are still very large compared to the channel (what they call the "transistor"). Without advances in scaling down contacts, you won't see a meaningful decrease in transistor density from this technology. What's more, they don't include an actual picture of the device, so there's no way to tell how big the contacts actually are.

2. Like most researchers, they "cheat" and use a very large (probably macroscopic) back gate to modulate current. The idea of a field effect transistor is that you apply a voltage perpendicular to the direction of current, which causes charges to move along the electric field and either hinder or help transistor current by creating (or eliminating) a potential well in the transistor. In real devices, you have billions of these transistors on a single wafer and so at some point you have to actually place a local gate, which usually has a huge negative effect on transistor operation.

3. They don't appear to have any good way of controlling how many of their transistors work (they rely on chance to get these molecules to bridge the gap between electrodes)

While certainly thought-provoking, as an engineer I am not particularly impressed until I see them using scalable methods.

Re:Misleading, as expected (0)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30557048)

I was looking at this as an incremental advance, that will be followed by other incremental advances like the ones you mention will be needed for this to become a viable product.

Re:Misleading, as expected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30561286)

Article summary:

We need funding. We will apply the engineering buzzword "single-molecule transistor" to achieve this. Some happy-go-lucky angel investors will dump money into our project thinking they'll see a return in 5 years. Haha.

One atom transistor has been done already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30558632)

I wouldn't want to spoil your joy, but there it is.

[abstract]
We have developed nanoscale double-gated field-effect-transistors for the study of electron states and transport properties of single deliberately implanted phosphorus donors. The devices provide a high-level of control of key parameters required for potential applications in nanoelectronics. For the donors, we resolve transitions corresponding to two charge states successively occupied by spin down and spin up electrons. The charging energies and the Land g-factors are consistent with expectations for donors in gated nanostructures.

The whole Article at Nano letters [acs.org]

finally my dick isn't the small transistor (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30559198)

hard soft is like on off right?

silverpig (1)

silverpig (814884) | more than 4 years ago | (#30559916)

I performed very similar research in a lab. The technique used is called a mechanically controllable break junction (MCBJ). Basically you make a very thin gold bridge using fairly standard e-beam nanofabrication procedures on a flexible substrate. You then bend the substrate and can thin the gold bridge down to a single atom in one-atom steps, then to a tunnel gap. You can then put this gap in a liquid (benzene or some other) and trap molecules in it. I actually did an undergrad thesis on conduction through a single gold atom and yes, while my device was technically 1 atom large, the entire apparatus was fist-sized. The bendy substrate on which everything was fabricated was about 1" by 0.25" in size. All this for a single atom. Now you can be a bit smarter and do it as a large array on a substrate this size, but still, this is about the size these guys are working with too. The main benefit of this is that they are testing the physics and properties required to make a molecular transistor. Scaling up to producing billions of these in a usable array is a completely separate problem.

Pin configuration? (3, Funny)

Stele (9443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30560722)

I assume once they add the Acetone and Turpentine, we'll end up with a DIP package?

!first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30560760)

This must be the 5th article I've seen in the past 2 years claiming scientists invented the first ever single-molecule transistor. Only a few months ago it was a phosphorous atom on silicon. Now it's benzene. Why do they keep saying it's the first?

Toast (1)

linuxgeek64 (1246964) | more than 4 years ago | (#30560958)

Burnt toast might have a use now...

Da Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30560962)

At this level, the only manufacturing process that could work would be chemical, not lithography like regular chip manufacturing.

So, until you have chemists who know how to place a billion+ molecules in exactly the right formation to make a device turing-complete, you won't see this in any application. Also, how much heat does this molecule generate at various energy states? I mean, if liquid nitrogen cooling isn't commercially viable for home computers, how feasible is a multi laser-cooled device?

Still, it is a record--the smallest transistor I've heard of before this was about 15 molecules across. Pretty cool.

Won't be easy to build chip with (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30560968)

Lithographically etching silicon is something we have lot of experience with but build molecules to order to build a chip is something we don't have any infrastructure to do. Eric Dexler famously imagined nanotechnological robots to be build at the molecular scale. And once we have such robot we can use them to build molecular chips or more robots, but without such scifi-esce technology its not obvious how we could build molecular computer chips.

---

Nanotech Feed @ [feeddistiller.com] Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

The c++/Java programmer reaction... (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30563230)

"functional transistor? thanks but no thanks! wake me up when they discover an object-oriented one"!!!

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