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Curtin study finds key to making smaller and smarter electronic devices

Media release

New Curtin University-led research has developed a new silicon-based molecular circuit that could potentially lead to the creation of electronic devices that are smaller, smarter and more energy efficient.

Electronic circuit

The research, published in the Journal Chemical Science, examined how silicon can be used to make single-molecule circuits, which can potentially be used as active components in electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops. These molecular-based circuits were made, under ambient conditions, without the need for chemical initiators, heating, or high pressure.

Lead researcher Dr Nadim Darwish, from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University, said until now, single-molecule circuitry required expensive materials and had been restricted to highly specialised laboratories.

“Single-molecule circuits are highly favourable as they are the smallest stable structure, making it ideal to create miniature electrical devices. Previously, scientists would need to use expensive materials such as gold, and conditions of extremely low temperatures, to make these circuits, which is not viable for industrial scale-up,” Dr Darwish said.

“Our team has developed a silicon-based molecular circuit that is not just small, but can also be controlled by the nature of the connecting molecule which is currently not possible in other models.”

Dr Darwish said this major research advance has allowed the research team to gain a deeper understanding of silicon-based molecular circuits, which has important implications for the electronics industry.

“Our molecular-based silicon technology could potentially create miniaturised electronics like transistors, as well as other technology spinoffs such as ultrasensitive sensors for the detection of harmful chemicals,” Dr Darwish said.

The research was co-authored by PhD student Chandramalika Peiris and Dr Simone Ciampi from Curtin University, as well as researchers from the University of Shanghai, James Cook University, ANSTO, and the University of Sydney.

Dr Darwish has also led a new research paper, published recently in Chemical Communications, which found a new way to create efficient electrical connections in devices and could potentially lead to the creation of more energy efficient electrical circuits.

The full paper titled, ‘Spontaneous S–Si bonding of alkanethiols to Si(111)–H: towards Si–molecule–Si circuits,’ can be found online here.