New process determines which nanostructures have the right stuff

Physicists at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a process for making metallic electrodes that can test whether individual nanostructures have the right properties for use in nanoelectronic applications.

Physicists at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a simple process for making tiny metallic electrodes that can test whether individual nanostructures have the right properties for use in future nanoelectronic applications.

‘This process consistently produces robust, stable electrodes with separations of less than 10 nanometers,’ said Dr. Zhen Yao, noting that the technique to create the electrodes is done at room temperature using standard instruments, enhancing its potential for application in fundamental nanoelectronics research.

To create the electrodes, they used commercially available gold nanoparticles to produce a bridge. The bridge is said to act as a ‘nano-fuse’ between two prefabricated large-gap electrodes when an alternating voltage is applied.

Then they broke the ‘nano-fuse’ bridge using electrical current to create a gap smaller than 10 nanometers between the electrodes. This permitted them to place an individual nanostructure such as a nanoparticle within the gap and determine how well the resulting structure functioned as a transistor, the building block of computer circuits.

The same has been done more recently with individual molecules. The resulting nanometer-sized transistors are expected to work faster and consume less power.

‘Up until this work, the process of building a precise nanotransistor was essentially hit or miss,’ said Dr. Paul F. Barbara, director of the university’s Center for Nano- and Molecular Science and Technology. He added that the work, ‘brings a much greater precision and reliability to an important measurement at the forefront of physics and chemistry.’