Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny Molecular-Scale Devices May Lead To Faster Computers

Date:
March 23, 1999
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Future generations of faster, smaller computers and information processing devices may owe their existence to tiny molecular devices being developed by North Carolina State University chemists.

Future generations of faster, smaller computers and information processing devices may owe their existence to tiny molecular devices being developed by North Carolina State University chemists.

The devices -- including a five-molecule-long wire that measures just 9-billionths of a meter end to end -- could help engineers make computer circuits up to 100 times smaller than current sizes. That's important, because the smaller the circuitry, the faster the computer.

"We're taking information processing into the molecular realm," says lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Lindsey, Glaxo Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at NC State. "Now that we've made the wire and figured out how it works and how to make it better, we can apply that knowledge to building logic gates, input-output elements, and other molecular-scale materials for computer circuits."

The pioneering work of Lindsey's team has put them at the forefront of an emerging new scientific field called molecular photonics. They will present an overview of their work, along with recent discoveries about factors that affect the flow of energy through their wire, in 10 presentations at the American Chemical Society's 1999 national meeting, March 21-26 in Anaheim, Calif.

Unlike conventional circuitry, the wire that's been built by Lindsey and his colleagues doesn't conduct electricity, nor is it an optical fiber. Rather, it's a series of pigments, similar to chlorophyll, that works on a principle similar to photosynthesis, the process by which plants' leaves absorb light and convert it into stored energy. Lindsey's wire works by absorbing blue-green light on one end and electronically transmitting it as light energy to the other end, where a fluorescent dye emits the signal as red light.

Although this process may seem novel to laymen, "scientists have long known that electronic communication occurs in molecules, such as in the flow of light energy from one chlorophyll molecule to another in photosynthesis," Lindsey says.

"Our research looks at ways to control this energy flow and use it to create future generations of super-fast, molecular-scale computer circuitry and information processing devices," he says. They also are working to build molecular photonic devices for use in solar-energy systems.

The idea behind the molecular photonic wire first came to Lindsey 17 years ago while he was in graduate school -- a time when methods for working on such minuscule devices didn't exist. But by 1994, the technology was in place to allow Lindsey, then at Carnegie Mellon University, to build a five-molecule-long prototype that acted as a passive carrier of electronic signals.

At the American Chemical Society meeting this month, he and his team will show how far the research has come.

One of their biggest advances has been learning how to increase the speed of energy flow along the wire. Previously, Lindsey explains, it was thought that energy flow was controlled by four factors: distance between molecules; molecules' orientation; their energies; and their environment. But the rate of energy flow observed in seemingly similar molecules was sometimes dramatically different. What could be causing this, researchers wondered, and how could it be controlled?

Two postdoctoral fellows in Lindsey's lab, Drs. Thiagarajan Balasubramanian and Jon-Paul Strachan, found the answer. They proved that a fifth factor, the orbital -- the pattern in which electrons are distributed within a molecule -- also affects the energy flow. Balasubramanian and Strachan found that if linkers joining the molecules are positioned at sites with high densities of electrons, energy flow is faster and more efficient.

"Sites with high electron densities are like spigots from which energy is ready to flow," Lindsey says. "Knowing this opens a lot of doors in designing new materials."

"As engineers approach the practical limits of shrinking circuitry size by the conventional method of cutting bulk materials into smaller pieces, it's only a matter of a few decades before the dimensions of computer circuitry enter the molecular scale," he says.

In addition to Balasubramanian and Strachan, Lindsey's chief collaborators are Dr. David Bocian, a former NC State student who is now professor of chemistry at the University of California at Riverside; and Dr. Dewey Holten, professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis.

Principal research funding comes from the National Science Foundation. The U.S. Department of Energy also sponsors Lindsey's work on potential uses for molecular photonic wires in solar-energy technologies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Tiny Molecular-Scale Devices May Lead To Faster Computers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990323050945.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (1999, March 23). Tiny Molecular-Scale Devices May Lead To Faster Computers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990323050945.htm
North Carolina State University. "Tiny Molecular-Scale Devices May Lead To Faster Computers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990323050945.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Company Copies Keys From Photos

Company Copies Keys From Photos

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) A new company allows customers to make copies of keys by simply uploading a couple of photos. But could it also be great for thieves? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rockefeller Oil Heirs Switching To Clean Energy

Rockefeller Oil Heirs Switching To Clean Energy

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) The Rockefellers — heirs to an oil fortune that made the family name a symbol of American wealth — are switching from fossil fuels to clean energy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A SpaceX Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying a custom-built 3-D printer into space. NASA envisions astronauts one day using the printer to make their own spare parts. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Billions of dollars are being spent on a massive super sewer to take away London's vast output of waste, which is endangering the River Thames. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins