A researcher at Missouri S&T continues her exploration of self-assembled DNA nanostructures with a project to fabricate a new generation of molecular electronic circuits that would allow for the unprecedented miniaturization of computers and other electronic devices.
Dr. Risheng Wang, assistant professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, received a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Computing and Communications Foundation to discover predictable ways to fabricate metal electrode junctions for the integration of single molecules using DNA-based origami nanostructures as templates.
Wang’s end goal is to use single molecules as the main building blocks for creating functional electronic circuitry.
“With single molecules at the heart of their circuitry, computers and other electronics will be smaller and faster with greater storage efficiency and signal processing,” Wang says. “One of the holdups today in making molecular electronics is that there’s not a definitive way to construct a metal electrode junction with nanometer gaps that can be reliably reproduced.”
“Microelectronics are reaching the limit of miniaturization through lithographic techniques that create circuits by transferring polymers, top-down, onto a substrate — like silicon,” Wang says. “To build these complex transistors, the transfer steps are repeated at least 10 times, but usually, 20 to 30 times.”
The new, bottom-up methods that Wang will deploy would create metal electrode junctions using templates of synthetic DNA origami nanostructures. This method will open the door to fabricate scalable and cost-effective metallic electrodes in a single reaction and to incorporate multiple single-molecule components in parallel, which is key to fabricating multiple devices containing single molecules.
While some single-molecule and carbon nanotube transistors have been created, no complex
and functional electrical circuits have been fabricated, Wang notes.
Wang’s grant project will provide interdisciplinary training to graduate, undergraduate and high school students crossing the fields of biochemistry, material science, nanotechnology and nanofabrication.
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