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Semiconducting Single Atom Chains: a New Research Frontier

The elements selenium and tellurium naturally crystallize as bundles of parallel atom chains (top). This research aims to isolate just one of these semiconducting atom chains (bottom) for use in electronic and optical circuits.

The elements selenium and tellurium naturally crystallize as bundles of parallel atom chains (top). This research aims to isolate just one of these semiconducting atom chains (bottom) for use in electronic and optical circuits.

January 1, 2018 | Source: University of Arkansas, news.uark.edu, 28 Nov 2017, UARK News Staff

Inspired by graphene, researchers at the University of Arkansas are at the frontier of a new research direction to create atomically narrow one-dimensional wires, called "single atom chains." If successful, this work funded by a $60k Short-Term Innovative Research award from the Army Research Office could potentially revolutionize electronics.

In the past, efforts to create nano-electronic components to surpass traditional silicon circuits have focused on one-dimensional nanotubes and nanowires. However, these earlier components either suffer performance degradation at the smallest sizes or possess random and difficult to control physical properties.

Earlier this year, the research team published an article titled "Toward Single Atom Chains with Exfoliated Tellurium" in the journal Nanoscale Research Letters, showing that nanoscale structures can be fabricated by exfoliating tellurium (Te) into ultra-thin flakes and nanowires.

This new structure is expected to push traditional electronics to the atomic endpoint of scaling, while opening up a new field of quantum circuits. In addition to electronics, these structures may also improve technological capabilities in sensing and communication.