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Room-temperature transistor based on a single carbon nanotube

Abstract

The use of individual molecules as functional electronic devices was first proposed in the 1970s (ref. 1). Since then, molecular electronics2,3 has attracted much interest, particularly because it could lead to conceptually new miniaturization strategies in the electronics and computer industry. The realization of single-molecule devices has remained challenging, largely owing to difficulties in achieving electrical contact to individual molecules. Recent advances in nanotechnology, however, have resulted in electrical measurements on single molecules4,5,6,7. Here we report the fabrication of a field-effect transistor—a three-terminal switching device—that consists of one semiconducting8,9,10 single-wall carbon nanotube11,12 connected to two metal electrodes. By applying a voltage to a gate electrode, the nanotube can be switched from a conducting to an insulating state. We have previously reported5 similar behaviour for a metallic single-wall carbon nanotube operated at extremely low temperatures. The present device, in contrast, operates at room temperature, thereby meeting an important requirement for potential practical applications. Electrical measurements on the nanotube transistor indicate that its operation characteristics can be qualitatively described by the semiclassical band-bending models currently used for traditional semiconductor devices. The fabrication of the three-terminal switching device at the level of a single molecule represents an important step towards molecular electronics.

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Figure 1: a, Tapping-mode AFM image of an individual carbon nanotube on top of three Pt electrodes.
Figure 2: Two probe I–Vbias curves for various values of the gate voltage (Vgate).
Figure 3: Three-probe IbiasV curves for two gate voltages.

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Acknowledgements

We thank R. E. Smalley and co-workers for the supply of the indispensable single-wall carbon nanotubes; A. Bezryadin, C. J. P. M. Harmans and P. Hadley for discussions; A. van den Enden for technical assistance. The work was supported by the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM).

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Correspondence to Cees Dekker.

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Tans, S., Verschueren, A. & Dekker, C. Room-temperature transistor based on a single carbon nanotube. Nature 393, 49–52 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/29954

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