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ORNL researchers performing basic research have discovered a carbon nanotube-based system that functions like an atom-scale switch. Their approach is to perform first-principles calculations on positioning a molecule inside a carbon nanotube to affect the electronic current flowing across it. The result is an electrical gate at the molecular level: In one position, the molecular gate is open, allowing current through; in another position, the gate is closed, blocking the current. In a silicon chip, the gate is a silicon oxide barrier within the structure of the chip. In the ORNL model, the gate is a short molecule --encapsulated inside the carbon nanotube-- that is about one nanometer in size, or three orders of magnitude smaller than a silicon chip. The paper is slated to appear in the Feb 2 Physical Review Letters.
About Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ORNL is in the final stages of a $350 million project to provide a modern campus for the next generation of great science. A unique combination of federal, state, and private funds is supporting the construction of 13 new facilities. Included in these new facilities will be the Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory, the Office of Science’s National Leadership Computing Facility for unclassified high-performance computing, and the joint institutes for computational sciences, biological sciences, and neutron sciences.
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