Is the single-molecule diode useful?

Molecular diode artist impression Credit_Columbia Molecular diode Credit: Columbia Engineering

Diodes are each a simple electronic device, they allow easy current flow in a single direction but not the reverse. In the quest for yet smaller devices, diodes on a molecular scale may now see some practical applications in nano-scale electronic systems.

Columbia Engineering researchers have created the first single-molecule diode — the ultimate in miniaturisation for electronic devices — with potential for real-world applications in electronic systems.

The diode that has a high (>250) rectification and a high “on” current (~ 0.1 microamps), says Latha Venkataraman, associate professor of applied physics. “Constructing a device where the active elements are only a single molecule … which has been the ‘holy grail’ of molecular electronics, represents the ultimate in functional miniaturization that can be achieved for an electronic device,” he said.

With electronic devices becoming smaller every day, the field of molecular electronics has become ever more critical in solving the problem of further miniaturisation, and single molecules represent the limit of miniaturisation. The idea of creating a single-molecule diode was suggested by Arieh Aviram and Mark Ratner who theorized in 1974 that a molecule could act as a rectifier, a one-way conductor of electric current.

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