Molecular computers a step nearer

A team of UCLA chemists have reported significant progress toward the creation of molecular computers with the first demonstration of a reconfigurable molecular switch that works in a solid state at room temperature.

The team was led by Professor James R Heath, J Fraser Stoddart and Pat Collier.

The research team acknowledges the unique molecules that Stoddart and his colleagues developed. Stoddart had been working for a decade on interlocking molecules with recognition sites.

‘Not only do the molecular components in these interlocked molecules communicate efficiently with one another but the molecules also interrelate to one another in the solid state device,’ said Stoddart.

The molecules, called catenanes, consist of two mechanically interlocked rings made up of atoms linked in a circle. Chemical groups were built that recognise one another into the components’ precursors so that when the appropriate pieces are brought together they self-assemble.

It is the switching motion, which can be induced by taking away and giving back an electron, that is the molecular basis for the present device.

These are said to work more efficiently than rotaxanes that were used previously in the research.

Molecular computers are predicted to be less expensive, much smaller and more energy efficient than silicon-based computers.

Heath is confident that his team will develop circuits that have molecular logic, molecular memory and nano-sized wires.

Heath added that a hybrid computer that interfaces with molecular memory with silicon logic is only a few years away and a demonstration of such a model could happen within the next decade.