In a transistor, electrons scurry along a channel whose length partly determines the device's speed. Chip makers have devised clever schemes to shrink circuitry, including transistors and their channels, thereby speeding up electronic processing.
Now, using a novel method of making transistors, Jan Hendrik Schön and his colleagues at Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., have built prototype devices with channels the length of a single molecule, about 2 nanometers.
The new channels span less than a fiftieth the length of the channels typical in chips today, Schön says. They're also shorter than the channels of other single-molecule transistors made from tubular strands called carbon nanotubes (SN: 11/10/01, p. 294: Wiring teensy tubes, strands into circuits).