A new study from researchers at Tyndall National Institute and the National University of Singapore shows that subtle changes in the intermolecular van der Waals interactions in the active component of a molecular diode can improve the device performance by more than a factor of ten.
A team of scientists from Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork and the National University of Singapore have designed and fabricated ultra-small devices for energy-efficient electronics. By finding out how molecules behave in these devices, a ten-fold increase in switching efficiency was obtained by changing just one carbon
Dr. Thompson explains “These molecules are very useful because they allow current to flow through them when switched ON and block current flow when switched OFF. The results of the study show that simply adding one extra carbon is sufficient to improve the device performance by more than a factor of ten. We are following up lots of new ideas based on these results, and we hope ultimately to create a range of new components for electronic devices.” Dr. Thompson’s atom-level computer simulations showed how molecules with an odd number of carbon atoms stand straighter than molecules with an even number of carbon atoms. This allows them to pack together more closely. Tightly-packed assemblies of these molecules were formed on metal electrode surfaces by the Nijhuis group in Singapore and were found to be remarkably free of defects. These high quality devices can suppress leakage currents and so operate efficiently and reliably. The device can be cleanly switched on and off purely on the basis of the charge and shape of the molecules, just like in the biological nanomachines that regulate Tyndall Electronic Theory Group leader Prof. Jim Greer explains: “Modern electronic devices such as telephones and tablets in manufacture today rely on tiny switches approaching molecular sizes. This provides new challenges for electronics but opens up exciting opportunities for blending molecular properties to be used to advantage. Dr. Thompson’s work is an exciting new avenue to exploit molecular design to achieve new ways to perform information processing.” A key enabling feature for
The devices are based on molecules that act as diodes by allowing current to pass through them when operated at forward bias and blocking current when the bias is reversed. Molecular rectifiers were first proposed back in 1974, and advances in scientific computing have allowed molecular‐level design to be used over the past decade to develop new organic materials that provide better electrical responses. However, the relative importance of the interactions between the molecules, the nature of the molecule-metal contact and the influence of environmental effects have been questioned. This new research demonstrates that dramatic improvements in device performance may be achieved by controlling the van der Waals forces that pack the molecules together. Simply changing the number of carbon atoms by one provides significantly more stable and more reproducible devices that exhibit an order of magnitude improvement in ON/OFF ratio. The research findings demonstrate the feasibility of boosting device performances by creating tighter seals between molecules.
“The development of molecular scale electronics is heavily reliant on simulation and high-performance computing,” commented Prof. Greer. “The continued support for research infrastructure in Ireland allows for the scientific advances that lead to enhanced interaction with global industry leaders, and positions Ireland to be a key provider of research with impact.”
Reference: “The role of van der Waals forces in the performance of molecular diodes” by Nisachol Nerngchamnong, Li Yuan, Dong-Chen Qi, Jiang Li, Damien Thompson and Christian A. Nijhuis, 6 January 2013, Nature Nanotechnology.
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