Creating a transistor with a single atom

Physicists at Purdue University and the University of New South Wales say they have successfully created a transistor using a phosphorus atom inside of a silicon crystal. The development creates the basis for the development of a working quantum computer that can work at nano scale. The possibilities for these types of mini-computers are endless and possibly game-changing, and manufacturing and medicine are just some of the fields that may benefit from nanotechnology.

The researchers built their transistor with the help of a scanning tunneling microscope. After placing a silicon crystal inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber, they used the microscope to create four phosphorous electrodes and one phosphorus transistor atop the silicon. Then they covered this with a layer of non-reactive hydrogen, and after removing a few of the hydrogen atoms with the metal tip of the microscope, they used phosphine gas to insert the phosphorous into the silicon. The whole system was then encased in another silicon layer and electrically connected to the outside world.


The atom was etched into a silicon bed with gates to control electrical flow and metallic contacts to apply voltage, researchers reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.The process goes like this way, the researchers place the phosphorus atom using a scanning tunneling microscope. Once a trench is dug, the phosphorus atom is covered in silicon atoms. The physicists made two crucial breakthroughs here. First, they demonstrated an ability to precisely place the Lilliputian switch. Even more importantly, they used industry standard manufacturing practices, making the transistor both readable and writable. Moreover, they are able to consistently produce these tiny transistors using their process, a feat so far unreachable.

A similar breakthroughs by IBM was also reported in January, where researchers announced they had stored binary data on just 12 atoms, a storage density some 100 times greater than the current ceiling for densities of today’s hard drive platters and flash chip technologies.

[Sources : – extremetech, Wired ]

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