A single-atom transistor


The ability to control matter at the atomic scale and build devices with atomic precision is central to nanotechnology. The scanning tunnelling microscope1 can manipulate individual atoms2 and molecules on surfaces, but the manipulation of silicon to make atomic-scale logic circuits has been hampered by the covalent nature of its bonds. Resist-based strategies have allowed the formation of atomic-scale structures on silicon surfaces3, but the fabrication of working devices—such as transistors with extremely short gate lengths4, spin-based quantum computers5,6,7,8 and solitary dopant optoelectronic devices9—requires the ability to position individual atoms in a silicon crystal with atomic precision. Here, we use a combination of scanning tunnelling microscopy and hydrogen-resist lithography to demonstrate a single-atom transistor in which an individual phosphorus dopant atom has been deterministically placed within an epitaxial silicon device architecture with a spatial accuracy of one lattice site. The transistor operates at liquid helium temperatures, and millikelvin electron transport measurements confirm the presence of discrete quantum levels in the energy spectrum of the phosphorus atom. We find a charging energy that is close to the bulk value, previously only observed by optical spectroscopy10.

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Figure 1: Single-atom transistor based on deterministic positioning of a phosphorus atom in epitaxial silicon.
Figure 2: Calculation of the donor potential within the device architecture.
Figure 3: Electronic spectrum of a single-atom transistor.


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The authors acknowledge discussions with S. Rogge, J. Verduijn and R. Rahman. This research was conducted by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (project no. CE110001027). The research was also supported by the US National Security Agency and the US Army Research Office (contract no. W911NF-08-1-0527). M.Y.S. acknowledges a Federation Fellowship. L.H. acknowledges an Australian Professorial Fellowship.

Author information




M.F. and J.M. carried out the fabrication and measurements. M.F., J.M., S.M., O.W., M.S., G.K. and L.H. analysed the data. H.R. and S.L. carried out the calculations. M.S. planned the project. G.K. and L.H. planned the modelling approach. M.F., J.M., S.M., H.R., G.K., L.H. and M.S. prepared the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Michelle Y. Simmons.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Fuechsle, M., Miwa, J., Mahapatra, S. et al. A single-atom transistor. Nature Nanotech 7, 242–246 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2012.21

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