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Researchers Create Single-Atom Transistor

By - Source: UNSW | B 38 comments

A report from the University of New South Wales provides reason to believe that Moore's Law has plenty of time left.

UNSW physicists were able to use a single phosphorus atom as a transistor that was placed between "atomic-scale electrodes and electrostatic control gates". To exactly position atoms on a chip is a critical ability to build quantum computers, the scientists said.

The team used a scanning tunnelling microscope to monitor and move atoms on the surface of a silicon crystal that was put in an ultra-high vacuum chamber. The phosphorus atoms were positioned via a lithography process and then covered with a non-reactive layer of hydrogen. The researchers then removed the hydrogen atoms in specific locations using the microscope tip. The placement of the phosphorus atoms on the silicon surface was achieved via a chemical reaction. The researchers completed the transistor with a silicon layer and "alignment markers" that enabled them to apply an electrical charge.

The researchers said that the "electronic properties of the device were in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions for a single phosphorus atom transistor."

So far, it has not been possible to target a specific location and position an atom in that specific spot. "This device is perfect", said Michelle Simmons, group leader and director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication at UNSW. "This is the first time anyone has shown control of a single atom in a substrate with this level of precise accuracy." Previously scientists hoped that an atom would be present in the location they needed it.

Intel will be rolling out processors built in 22 nm this year. Transistors that reach an atom level are expected to be built in the 2020 time frame.

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    bin1127 , February 21, 2012 10:05 AM
    So when is apple going to sue for stealing their invention?
  • 17 Hide
    joytech22 , February 21, 2012 9:04 AM
    Wow, think about it for a second..
    We are building things out of ATOMS.. ATOMS!!

    You serious? I mean sure we have carbon nanotubes and stuff but just wow.
    And soon computers transistors may even be based on single Atoms?

    I think we are advancing pretty damn fast, I mean we took over this planet and affected it in multiple ways, carve parts of it to our liking..

    ARGH it's just insane.. >.< Humans are too powerful.
  • 14 Hide
    JackFrost860 , February 21, 2012 11:51 AM
    And what will the rest of the human race do with these quantum computers? Yes, use them to update their Facebook status!
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    memadmax , February 21, 2012 8:31 AM
    Now THIS is something that will really pump up the GFLOPs =D
  • 5 Hide
    alhanelem , February 21, 2012 8:53 AM
    so whats after this then?
    electron transistors?
  • -4 Hide
    theuniquegamer , February 21, 2012 8:58 AM
    How possible with 1 atom. I think in few 5-10 years a single chip will contain 10s of trillions of transistors.
  • 17 Hide
    joytech22 , February 21, 2012 9:04 AM
    Wow, think about it for a second..
    We are building things out of ATOMS.. ATOMS!!

    You serious? I mean sure we have carbon nanotubes and stuff but just wow.
    And soon computers transistors may even be based on single Atoms?

    I think we are advancing pretty damn fast, I mean we took over this planet and affected it in multiple ways, carve parts of it to our liking..

    ARGH it's just insane.. >.< Humans are too powerful.
  • 11 Hide
    dontknownotsure , February 21, 2012 9:48 AM
    joytech22Wow, think about it for a second..We are building things out of ATOMS.. ATOMS!!You serious? I mean sure we have carbon nanotubes and stuff but just wow.And soon computers transistors may even be based on single Atoms?I think we are advancing pretty damn fast, I mean we took over this planet and affected it in multiple ways, carve parts of it to our liking..ARGH it's just insane.. >.< Humans are too powerful.


    oh just wait until they decide to play fallout IRL
  • 6 Hide
    ojas , February 21, 2012 9:51 AM
    joytech22Humans are too powerful.

    With great power comes great responsibility... :) 
  • 18 Hide
    bin1127 , February 21, 2012 10:05 AM
    So when is apple going to sue for stealing their invention?
  • 3 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 21, 2012 10:16 AM
    Arthur C Clarke wrote in the book 3001 that the race that invented the Monolith had found a way to store information by manipulating the fabric of space
    ...
    At this rate we won't have to wait a thousand years for that to happen for real
  • -2 Hide
    bustapr , February 21, 2012 10:19 AM
    thats around 100x smaller than intels trigate transistors. Imagine the speed!

    also now that this is possible I fear well hit a wall in tech dev in the next 2 decades.
  • 6 Hide
    southernshark , February 21, 2012 11:15 AM
    We are just paving the road for our machine overlords to walk on.
  • -5 Hide
    marraco , February 21, 2012 11:45 AM
    End of the road for Moore's law...
  • 14 Hide
    JackFrost860 , February 21, 2012 11:51 AM
    And what will the rest of the human race do with these quantum computers? Yes, use them to update their Facebook status!
  • 10 Hide
    techseven , February 21, 2012 12:04 PM
    So it will be Intel Atom 2.0?
  • 7 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 21, 2012 12:05 PM
    southernsharkWe are just paving the road for our machine overlords to walk on.

    I, for one, welcome our new machine overlords
  • -2 Hide
    scytherswings , February 21, 2012 12:28 PM
    You forgot to mention that it was created with the help of Purdue University and the University of Melbourne....

    Boiler Up!
  • 1 Hide
    zak_mckraken , February 21, 2012 12:52 PM
    southernsharkWe are just paving the road for our machine overlords to walk on.

    I too welcome our new machine overlords.
  • 0 Hide
    lahawzel , February 21, 2012 1:16 PM
    "The researchers said that the 'electronic properties of the device were in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions for a single phosphorus atom transistor.'"

    How good are these theoretical predictions, anyway? Are they better than what can be expected of silicon-based transistors of a larger scale?
  • 0 Hide
    alvine , February 21, 2012 1:18 PM
    jawaazHmmm...getting more advanced to make atoms slaves of humans :-P ....Salute to makers of this and if we do enough advances ,we might start using only quarks as processors :-) CEO & Founder @Koenizsegg Corporation!http://www.koenizsegg.co.cc

    you are the Christian von Koenigsegg ehh?
  • 1 Hide
    sslapikas , February 21, 2012 1:57 PM
    This is no news. We already have "Atom" processors. Yours sincerely Mr Sarcasm
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