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Transistors and logic circuits based on metal nanoparticles and ionic gradients


Transistors are typically based on inorganic or organic semiconductors. Metals have generally been considered unsuitable for such use because bulk metals screen electric fields and thus achieving electrically tunable conductivity is difficult. Alternatively, gradients of counterions in films of metal nanoparticles functionalized with charged organic ligands can be used to construct electronic devices, including resistors, diodes and sensors, but modulating the conductivity in these systems has also proven to be challenging. Here we show that transistors and logic circuits can be created from thin films of functionalized gold nanoparticles using dynamic ionic gradients established via an unconventional five-electrode configuration. The transistors are capable of a 400-fold modulation of electrical conductivity, and by combining with metal nanoparticle diodes and resistors, can be used to construct NOT, NAND and NOR logic gates, as well as a half-adder circuit. We also show that transistors deposited on flexible substrates continue to work when deformed and can withstand electrostatic discharges.

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Fig. 1: Schematic and experimental images of the metal nanoparticle, TMA AuNP, thin-film transistor.
Fig. 2: Electrical performance of the TMA AuNP transistor.
Fig. 3: Dynamics of counterions’ migration.
Fig. 4: Theoretically predicted characteristics of the TMA AuNP transistor.
Fig. 5: Logic gates and a half-adder circuit.
Fig. 6: Performance of TMA AuNP transistor upon electrostatic discharge and mechanical bending.

Data availability

The data that support the plots in this paper and other findings of this study are available from Y.Y. upon reasonable request.


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This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB36000000) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21571039). We thank B. Lu for helpful discussions and support on modelling. B.A.G. acknowledges the generous personal support from the Institute of Basic Science, Korea (award IBS-R020-D1).

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Authors and Affiliations



X.Z. carried out the experiments and performed the data analysis with J.G., T.X., Y. Zhou and Y. Zhang. L.Y. and B.T. modelled the experimental results. All the authors wrote the manuscript. B.A.G. and Y.Y. conceived and supervised the project.

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Correspondence to Bartosz A. Grzybowski or Yong Yan.

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Supplementary Information

Materials and methods, theoretical details and Supplementary Figs. 1–15.

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Zhao, X., Yang, L., Guo, J. et al. Transistors and logic circuits based on metal nanoparticles and ionic gradients. Nat Electron 4, 109–115 (2021).

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