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Shrunk Electronics

Something rather eccentric happens when electronics gets smaller; devices can not only be very powerful but come with some exotic new properties. Namely, at the very tiny scale, the nano-scale, things behave differently and exploiting these novel effects offers opportunities in new and emerging technologies.

The field of molecular electronics proposes to use elements as small as molecules to design electrical components. This requires collaboration of different researchers. Chemists and computational experts need to predict the electrical behaviour of a molecule. Synthetic chemists need to make new molecules with specific and often complex structures from scratch. And researchers like me want to design circuit architectures by putting such molecules or assemblies of molecules together into functional electronic junctions.

My research is focused on the use of nano-sized assemblies of semiconducting materials called quantum dots.  Made of very small lead sulphide crystals, they have unique quantum properties related to their size and have already been used to make solar cells and numerous biosensors.  In collaboration with chemists from Optoelectonics Groups and material scientists from Cambridge Graphene Centre, we have managed to create reliable architectures which demonstrate electronic properties characteristic of charge confinement in nano space within quantum dots. Now we are adapting these architectures to explore the conversion of waste heat into electricity by use of electronic junctions of specifically designed molecules.

Going to the molecular scale in electronics is a fascinating enterprise—by making electronics smaller we are growing the number of potential applications. 

Hippolyte Astier

NanoDTC PhD Associate 2016

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