Single-atom transistor created by scientists


Researchers in Australia and America announced that they built a working transistor from a single phosphorus atom embedded in a silicon crystal, according to The New York Times. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on Sunday.

The AFP said the transistor comprised “a single phosphorus atom, etched into a silicon bed, with ‘gates’ to control electrical flow and metallic contacts that are also on the atomic scale.”

The lead scientist, Martin Fuechsle, said in a press release from the University of New South Wales, “Our group has proved that it is really possible to position one phosphorus atom in a silicon environment – exactly as we need it – with near-atomic precision, and at the same time register gates.”

The physicists, working at the University of New South Wales and Purdue University, said they have laid the foundation for “quantum computers” that would be much smaller and faster than the silicon-based machines of today, according to The Times.

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Single-atom transistors have been created before, with the first appearing in 2002, but the advances this time lie “in the precision with which they were able to place the Lilliputian switch; and in using for the first time industry-standard techniques to build the circuitry, making it possible to read and write information from the tiniest-conceivable switch,” said The Times.

The semi-conductor industry has been following Moore’s Law, the prediction made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, that the number of transistors on a chip would double approximately every two years.

But the ever decreasing sizes could hit a wall without a breakthrough, said the AFP.

Gerhard Klimeck, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, estimated that at its current pace, the semi-conductor industry could reach its smallest limits in two decades, according to The Times.

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