Researchers Make First Electrical Contact with Molecules


In the beginning, there were room-sized computers. Over the course of mere decades, they shrank down to bulky desktops and suitcase-sized laptops. Pagers turned into chunky mobile phones by the 1990s, and eventually phone and computer merged to become the smartphone as the world ushered in the Age of Information.

The advent of digital society has been ruled by increasing miniaturization, made possible by one tiny invention: the silicon chip. Today’s semiconductor industry relies heavily on these chips, which are powered by small electronic circuits typically made of many tiny, conductive transistors placed onto a small silicon wafer.

Technology has continued to shrink, and, as this trend has gained momentum, so has the study of molecular electronics. The field has existed since the 1950s, the same decade engineers developed the microchip, but it has long been overshadowed by the microchips’ popularity. The research done so far focuses mainly on replacing silicon-based electric components, such as transistors, with even smaller, conductive molecules.

Such molecules have the potential to make computer and mobile technology even smaller and more agile, and could give engineers the means to surpass the limits of conventional silicon chips. Yet, any postulations have remained largely theoretical, as it has been difficult to establish reliable electrical contact with...

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