Australian researchers are helping unlock new smaller everyday electronic devices.

Curtin University engineers have created a diode – the basic component of most modern electronic devices – out of a tiny single molecule, to help continue the trend of constantly downsizing electronic devices.

The physical limits of current computing power are rapidly being reached due to the fact conventional technology only allows a millions of diodes to be printed on silicon chips, not the thousands of billions of diodes that will be needed to keep advancing.

“If we want to continue to offer smaller and more powerful everyday electronic devices like mobiles phones and laptops, then we have to use single molecules as the basic components of the electronic circuits in those devices,” lead researcher Dr Nadim Darwish says.

“Our method utilises a small organic molecule connected with a gold and a silicon electrode in a tiny circuit, measuring only 1 nanometre long – or about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

“While we are not the first to have created single-molecule diodes, this diode is much smaller and more efficient than any previously reported. Using this technology, we can fit more than ten thousand billion diodes onto a 1 cm2 area of a silicon chip, which will help make it easier to develop even smaller everyday electronic devices in the future.”

Co-author Dr Simone Ciampi, also from Curtin University, said the team of researchers was now focused on increasing the mechanical stability of the diodes, to ensure it worked to open up a range of exciting technological possibilities for modern electronic devices.

“We have demonstrated that this molecular-scale diode can allow currents to pass in one direction 4000 times more efficiently than in the opposite direction, which is a leap towards creating single-molecule diodes of comparable efficiency to conventional diodes while also scaling down the size significantly,” Dr Ciampi said.

Their latest paper has been published here.