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Nanoelectronic circuits reach speeds of 245 THz


April 21, 2014

A focused electron beam (in yellow) was used to characterize the structures and to probe the optical properties of two plasmonic resonators bridged by a layer of molecules (Image: Tan Shu Fen/NUS)

A focused electron beam (in yellow) was used to characterize the structures and to probe the optical properties of two plasmonic resonators bridged by a layer of molecules (Image: Tan Shu Fen/NUS)

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have designed and manufactured circuits that can reach speeds of up to 245 THz, tens of thousands of times faster than contemporary microprocessors. The results open up possible new design routes for plasmonic-electronics, that combine nano-electronics with the fast operating speed of optics.

When light interacts with some metals, it can be captured in the form of collective, extremely fast oscillations of electrons called plasmons. If harnessed, the interaction of photons and electrons could be used to build ultra-fast computers (among other things). But these phenomena occur at a scale so small that we don't yet have the tools to investigate them, let alone harness them.

Assistant Professor Christian A. Nijhuis and his team have now found a way to harness quantum-plasmonic effects even with the current generation of electronics, using a process called "quantum plasmonic tunneling."

The team built a molecular-scale circuit consisting of two plasmonic resonators (structures that can convert photons into plasmons) separated by a single layer of molecules only 0.5 nanometers in size.

Using electron microscopy, Nijhuis and colleagues saw that the layer of molecules allowed the quantum plasmonic tunneling effects to take place, allowing the circuit to operate at frequencies of up to 24 THz. What's more, the frequency of the circuit could be adjusted by changing the material of the molecular layer.

This marks the first time that scientists have observed the quantum plasmonic tunneling effects directly, and is a convincing demonstration that molecular electronics can indeed handle speeds that are miles beyond that of contemporary electronics.

Future applications include plasmonic-electronics hybrids that combine nanoelectronics with the fast operating speed of optics, and single-molecule photon detectors. The researchers will now focus their efforts on trying to integrate these devices into actual electronic circuits.

The results were published in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Source: NUS

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion. All articles by Dario Borghino

Now get this hooked up to some graphene circuits wire it into your cells' DNA and use some of the new biological encryption techniques and we got our selves a Unique Human Identifier and a means to keep track of everybody :)

John Kline Kurtz

It may be worth noting that the "speed" of the materials also implies substantially higher densities of Information storage AND processing, further progress toward thinking machines that meet size requirments to operate independently, however programmed in terms of "mission."

Barry Dennis

Gigahertz electronics still boggles my mind. Our trajectory would still be on track if we're only at 40 GHz speeds in 10 years. At 1 THz speeds, we'll be creating worlds within worlds for sure. At 200+ THz speeds... unfathomable.

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