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Coulomb blockade and the Kondo effect in single-atom transistors

Naturevolume 417pages722725 (2002) | Download Citation



Using molecules as electronic components is a powerful new direction in the science and technology of nanometre-scale systems1. Experiments to date have examined a multitude of molecules conducting in parallel2,3, or, in some cases, transport through single molecules. The latter includes molecules probed in a two-terminal geometry using mechanically controlled break junctions4,5 or scanning probes6,7 as well as three-terminal single-molecule transistors made from carbon nanotubes8, C60 molecules9, and conjugated molecules diluted in a less-conducting molecular layer10. The ultimate limit would be a device where electrons hop on to, and off from, a single atom between two contacts. Here we describe transistors incorporating a transition-metal complex designed so that electron transport occurs through well-defined charge states of a single atom. We examine two related molecules containing a Co ion bonded to polypyridyl ligands, attached to insulating tethers of different lengths. Changing the length of the insulating tether alters the coupling of the ion to the electrodes, enabling the fabrication of devices that exhibit either single-electron phenomena, such as Coulomb blockade, or the Kondo effect.

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We thank E. Smith, M. Brink and J.-Y. Park for help with measurements, and M. Deshmukh for discussions. This work was supported by NSF, through individual-investigator grants, the Cornell Center for Materials Research, and the use of the National Nanofabrication Users Network. Support was also provided by the Packard Foundation, the US Department of Energy and Department of Education GAANN fellowships.

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Author notes

  1. Jiwoong Park, Abhay N. Pasupathy, Jonas I. Goldsmith and Héctor D. Abruña: These authors contributed equally to this work


  1. Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853, USA

    • Jiwoong Park
    • , Abhay N. Pasupathy
    • , Connie Chang
    • , Yuval Yaish
    • , Jason R. Petta
    • , Marie Rinkoski
    • , James P. Sethna
    • , Paul L. McEuen
    •  & Daniel C. Ralph
  2. Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853, USA

    • Jonas I. Goldsmith
    •  & Héctor D. Abruña
  3. Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, California, 94720, USA

    • Jiwoong Park


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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Paul L. McEuen or Daniel C. Ralph.

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