Friday, April 22, 2005

 

Moore's Law and Molecular Electronics

This week saw the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the empirical Moore’s Law. The law, first proposed by Intel co-founder Gorgon Moore, predicts that the number of transistors contained on a computer chip will double approximately every 18 months, with this increase in transistor density comes an exponential growth in computing power.

There are strong indications that we are approaching the time when this dramatic increase, which has done so much to shape the way the world’s economy has changed, is coming to an end. This is due to the inherent susceptibility of silicon (the primary component of integrated circuits) to information leakage (i.e. quantum tunnelling of electrons from the bulk material near to the transistor surface causing a corruption in the data being transferred), at small scales.

In order to continue the trend of Moore’s law we need smaller electronic components to occupy integrated circuits, components that instead of being hindered by the effects of quantum mechanics, take advantage of them. The ultimate prospect for miniaturisation is in the form of single molecule electronics.

Molecules fulfil several of the required criteria: they are small, reproducible in large quantities, take advantage of quantum effects instead of being hindered by them; in molecules electron energies are quantize, unlike the bulk silicon case. Another reason for choosing to work with individual molecules is that molecules can be pi conjugated suggesting that the conductance can be controlled by changing the molecular conformation, this is an effect that is still relatively un-investigated in the field of molecular electronics and also the focus of my personal research. The final advantage of using molecules is the fact that some may be able to self assemble (something I intend to discuss in greater detail at a later time), allowing the, relatively, rapid fabrication of large scale structures.

Moore’s law is no longer just a law for the computing industry, it is a major component of modern economical growth. Economic growth, for a company for example, is achieved by having an advantage over your competition, whether this advantage is in the form of a new product, market or most commonly a technological edge. This edge is often due to superior computing power, either in a theoretical role or practical application, an edge achieved through the continuation of Moore’s law. Molecule electronics are still along way from practical applications, but with incessant march of forward for ever superior computing power, by increased transistor density, they are will be an essential part of the future world of both computing and global economics.
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