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One-atom nano-transistor created

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A three-dimensional image of a single-atom transistor

Scientists have built a one-atom nano-transistor by placing a tiny phosphorous atom within atomic scale electrodes all within a silicon crystal.

Physicists from the ARC Center for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia used a scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate atoms on the surface of the crystal inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber, the journal Nature Nanotechnology reported.

The creation of the one-atom nano-transistor is an important breakthrough for the quest to build quantum computers, which will use the quantum properties of atoms to perform calculations billions of times faster than today’s computers.

The atom is exactly where it should be, while most single-atom devices have a positioning margin of error of about 10 nanometers.

“Our group has proved that it is really possible to position one phosphorus atom in a silicon environment — exactly as we need it — with near-atomic precision, and at the same time register gates,” said lead researcher Dr. Martin Fuechsle.

ARC Center director Michelle Simmons said, “We really decided 10 years ago to start this program to try and make single-atom devices as fast as we could… So here we are in 2012, and we’ve made a single-atom transistor roughly 8 to 10 years ahead of where the industry is going to be.”


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