Yale research team first to describe molecular-sized memory

November 01, 1999

New Haven, Conn. -- Computer storage capacity can be vastly increased using a molecular memory based on a single molecule, a research team from Yale and Rice Universities has discovered.

The discovery attacks one of the major problems facing the microelectronics industry -- cost. Detailed results of the study will be presented at the International Electron Devices Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 6, 1999.

The tremendous improvements and reduced cost seen over the last three decades in electronics -- computers, telecommunications, multimedia -- will eventually stop because circuits cannot be made smaller economically, says Mark Reed, Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Engineering and Applied Science and chair of electrical engineering at Yale.

"We've demonstrated a memory element the size of a single molecule," said Reed, principal investigator on the paper. "This is the ultimate in size that one can achieve in microminaturization. The fabrication of the molecular memory was done using a method called 'self-assembly,' which has the potential to dramatically reduce cost."

The single molecule memory effect is more robust in storing information than conventional silicon memory, which is typically 'dynamic random access memories' (DRAM). The single molecule memory has a life approximately one million times longer than DRAM, which is not capable of holding stored charges for long.

"With the single molecule memory, all a general-purpose ultimate molecular computer now needs is a reversible single molecule switch," said Reed. "I anticipate we will see a demonstration of one very soon."

Papers presented at the International Electron Devices Meeting represent the world's leading applied research in electronics. As such, the papers give important clues about where electronics technology will be three-to-five years from now. The meeting runs from December 5-8, 1999.

The research team consisted of Reed and graduate student Jia Chen in Yale's electrical engineering department; and Professor James Tour and graduate student Adam Rawlett of the Department of Chemistry and Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University.
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Yale University

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