Buckyballs and diamondoids combined to create molecule-sized diode

Scientists working at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) claim to have created a molecule-sized electronic component just a few nanometers long that conducts electricity in only the one direction. In essence, a rectifier diode, but one so small that it may one day help replace much bulkier diodes and other semiconductors found on today’s integrated circuits to produce incredibly compact, super-fast electronic devices.

Created using two unconventional types of carbon – Buckminsterfullerene (aka buckyballs, spherical molecules of carbon in a fused-ring structure) and diamondoids (microminiature nanoscale carbon cage molecules that are incredibly strong) – the resultant “buckydiamondoids” exhibit asymmetric conductance when an electric current is applied. That is, they act just like diodes in conducting electricity in one direction, but block it if it is applied from the other direction.

Buckyballs and diamondoids combined to create molecule-sized diode

“We wanted to see what new, emergent properties might come out when you put these two ingredients together to create a ‘buckydiamondoid,'” said Hari Manoharan, Associate Professor at Stanford and researcher at SIMES. “What we got was a basically a one-way valve for conducting electricity – clearly more than the sum of its parts.”

Building on previous work by a team of scientists from SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) and Stanford University, which demonstrated that a layer of diamondoids on a metal surface – with a small bias voltage applied – can be made to efficiently emit a beam of electrons, the latest research arose from the idea of pairing such electron-emitting devices with a molecule that attracted electrons.


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