Molecular scale electronics

Molecular scale electronics, also called single-molecule electronics, is a branch of nanotechnology that uses single molecules, or nanoscale collections of single molecules, as electronic components. Because single molecules constitute the smallest stable structures imaginable, this miniaturization is the ultimate goal for shrinking electrical circuits.

The field is often termed simply as "molecular electronics", but this term is also used to refer to the distantly related field of conductive polymers and organic electronics, which uses the properties of molecules to affect the bulk properties of a material. A nomenclature distinction has been suggested so that molecular materials for electronics refers to this latter field of bulk applications, while molecular scale electronics refers to the nanoscale single-molecule applications treated here.[1][2]

Fundamental concepts

Conventional electronics have traditionally been made from bulk materials. Ever since their invention in 1958, the performance and complexity of integrated circuits has undergone exponential growth, a trend named Moore’s law, as feature sizes of the embedded components have shrunk accordingly. As the structures shrink, the sensitivity to deviations increases. In a few technology generations, when the minimum feature sizes reaches 13 nm, the composition of the devices must be controlled to a precision of a few atoms[3] for the devices to work. With bulk methods growing increasingly demanding and costly as they near inherent limits, the idea was born that the components could instead be built up atom by atom in a chemistry lab (bottom up) versus carving them out of bulk material (top down). This is the idea behind molecular electronics, with the ultimate miniaturization being components contained in single molecules.

In single-molecule electronics, the bulk material is replaced by single molecules. Instead of forming structures by removing or applying material after a pattern scaffold, the atoms are put together in a chemistry lab. In this way, billions of billions of copies are made simultaneously (typically more than 1020 molecules are made at once) while the composition of molecules are controlled down to the last atom. The molecules used have properties that resemble traditional electronic components such as a wire, transistor or rectifier.

Single-molecule electronics is an emerging field, and entire electronic circuits consisting exclusively of molecular sized compounds are still very far from being realized. However, the unceasing demand for more computing power, along with the inherent limits of lithographic methods as of 2016, make the transition seem unavoidable. Currently, the focus is on discovering molecules with interesting properties and on finding ways to obtain reliable and reproducible contacts between the molecular components and the bulk material of the electrodes.

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српски / srpski: Elektronika molekulskih razmera
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Elektronika molekulskih razmera