Rice University researchers have self-assembled molecular electronic components to create devices that can carry out basic computing functions. By using a disordered assembly of conductive organic molecules and gold nanowires the team has created a device that works as non-volatile memory.
Until now the development of integrated circuitry has been expensive due to the requirement of ensuring absolute precision in the construction of each chip. This development shows that highly disordered systems can be used for computer circuits. The so-called Nanocells, are made by vapour-depositing islands of gold film on a rectangle of silicon dioxide. The 40 x 10 micron sliver of silicon dioxide develops conductive links between the gold islands by submersing it in a liquid solution of synthesized organic molecules and gold nanowires. Gold wires around the outside of the Nanocell carry electronic signals to and from the device. Unlike traditional semiconductor technology, Nanocells have the potential to decrease computing component sizes and fabrication costs by several orders of magnitude.
These NanoCell devices function as re-programmable memory. The memory states hold firm at room temperature for at least a week compared with around one hundredth of a second for the current, commonly used dynamic random access memory, or DRAM.