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Room-temperature current blockade in atomically defined single-cluster junctions


Fabricating nanoscopic devices capable of manipulating and processing single units of charge is an essential step towards creating functional devices where quantum effects dominate transport characteristics. The archetypal single-electron transistor comprises a small conducting or semiconducting island separated from two metallic reservoirs by insulating barriers1,2,3,4,5. By enabling the transfer of a well-defined number of charge carriers between the island and the reservoirs, such a device may enable discrete single-electron operations6,7,8,9. Here, we describe a single-molecule junction comprising a redox-active, atomically precise cobalt chalcogenide cluster wired between two nanoscopic electrodes10,11. We observe current blockade at room temperature in thousands of single-cluster junctions. Below a threshold voltage, charge transfer across the junction is suppressed. The device is turned on when the temporary occupation of the core states by a transiting carrier is energetically enabled, resulting in a sequential tunnelling process and an increase in current by a factor of 600. We perform in situ and ex situ cyclic voltammetry as well as density functional theory calculations to unveil a two-step process mediated by an orbital localized on the core of the cluster in which charge carriers reside before tunnelling to the collector reservoir. As the bias window of the junction is opened wide enough to include one of the cluster frontier orbitals, the current blockade is lifted and charge carriers can tunnel sequentially across the junction.

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Figure 1: The single-cluster junction.
Figure 2: Transport characteristics of single-cluster junctions.
Figure 3: Junction current as a function of tip voltage.
Figure 4: Transport mechanism and orbitals involved.

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This work was supported primarily by the Center for Precision Assembly of Superstratic and Superatomic Solids at Columbia University, an NSF MRSEC (award no. DMR-1420634). B.C. is supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under grant no. DGE 11-44155. X-ray diffraction measurements were performed in the Shared Materials Characterization Laboratory at Columbia University.

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Experiments were conceived and designed by G.L., B.C., M.L.S., X.R. and L.V. and performed by G.L. Compounds were synthesized and characterized by B.C. DFT calculations were performed by M.L.S. SCXRD of all compounds was performed by B.C. and D.W.P. The manuscript was co-written by G.L., B.C., M.L.S., X.R. and L.V., with input from all authors.

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Correspondence to Latha Venkataraman or Xavier Roy.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Lovat, G., Choi, B., Paley, D. et al. Room-temperature current blockade in atomically defined single-cluster junctions. Nature Nanotech 12, 1050–1054 (2017).

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