World’s smallest transistor

Single atom transistor
STM image of a single atom transistor

Scientists have developed the world’s smallest transistor that is made up of a single atom.

This research has been done by scientists from University of New South Wales and published online in the journal of Nature Nanotechnology.

This research has been considered as a better foundation for scalable quantum computing. In this development, researchers have precisely placed single phosphorus-31 isotope on the base of Silicon inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber with the help of a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM).

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The research team selected phosohorus-31 due to its two possible nuclear spins and this isotope has been suggested as an ideal isotope for solid-state quantum computing. Another important aspect in selecting phosphorus and silicon is that the processors based on this technique would be compatible with CMOS sensors used nowadays.

Scientists were able to position the individual phosphorus atom very precisely, so that it must be at an effective place. Precision of position is important as the margin of error with many of the single atom devices is 10nm, which is great in the tiny level of atoms.

“But this device is perfect”, says Professor Michelle Simmons, group leader and director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at UNSW. “This is the first time anyone has shown control of a single atom in a substrate with this level of precise accuracy.”

This technique’s integration in processors is still to be accomplished as it is not only very expensive but also complicated to be used at many places.


Martin Fuechsle, Jill A. Miwa, Suddhasatta Mahapatra, Hoon Ryu, Sunhee Lee, Oliver Warschkow, Lloyd C. L. Hollenberg, Gerhard Klimeck & Michelle Y. Simmons, (2012). A single-atom transistor. Nature Nanotechnology, doi:10.1038/nnano.2012.21

Further Reading:

The University of New South Wales

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