Shrinking electronics to its ultimate limit

Published in Horizon, 16 May 2014

Your laptop, smartphone or tablet could one day see a massive performance boost thanks to scientists who are shrinking electronics down to its ultimate limit: the size of single atoms or molecules.

All modern computing devices get their power from silicon chips, which are filled with transistors, and these transistors are very small – no more than a few dozen nanometres in diameter, or about a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.

However, for some people, that’s not small enough. Every two years or so, computer engineers have managed to double the number of transistors on chips in order to make the chips faster – a trend famously noted by the Intel Corporation co-founder Gordon Moore. To keep up with the squeeze, those engineers have had to employ smaller and smaller transistors.

That is why scientists are trying to make transistors and other electronic devices from single atoms and molecules. ‘An entire computer based on molecular electronics would overcome Moore’s Law,’ said physicist Angelika Kühnle at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. […]

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