AUSTIN, Texas—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.
The findings of Yao and Dr. Saiful I. Khondaker were published online today by the journal Applied Physics Letters.
National interest in developing nanomaterials, which are built from structures that are about one billionth a meter in size, has bloomed as companies have become aware of nanostructures’ potential to revolutionize the electronics industry, medicine and many other fields. The physicists designed the nanometer-sized electrodes so that they could probe the quality and performance of nanostructures destined for electronic purposes.
To create the electrodes, they used commercially available gold nanoparticles to produce a bridge that acts as a "nano-fuse" between two prefabricated large-gap electrodes by applying alternating voltage. 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. "These authors’ work brings a much greater precision and reliability to an important measurement at the forefront of physics and chemistry."
Financial support for Khondaker and Yao’s research was provided by the Welch Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
For more information contact: Barbra Rodriguez, 512-232-0675, media relations, College of Natural Sciences, or Dr. Zhen Yao, 512-471-1058, assistant professor of physics.