Molecular electronics

Image: © S. V. Aradhya and L. Venkataraman, Columbia Univ.

Since the early 1970s, researchers have looked to use individual molecules as functional building blocks in electronic circuits, but the field of molecular electronics has been hampered by significant experimental challenges and practical devices have remained elusive. Recent improvements in the study of single-molecule junctions have, however, led to the discovery of a variety of novel effects, which could have an impact on a range of applications. This focus issue examines the challenges and opportunities for the field.



Does molecular electronics compute? p377


The field of molecular electronics originally set out to build computers, but silicon-based technology is unlikely to be replaced anytime soon. Nevertheless, the field has developed into a highly interdisciplinary endeavour, which could have a variety of ramifications that extend beyond computing.



Wiring molecules into circuits pp381 - 384

Emanuel Lörtscher


Inexpensive, functional and atomically precise molecules could be the basis of future electronic devices, but integrating them into circuits will require the development of new ways to control the interface between molecules and electrodes.

A brief history of molecular electronics pp378 - 381

Mark Ratner


The field of molecular electronics has been around for more than 40 years, but only recently have some fundamental problems been overcome. It is now time for researchers to move beyond simple descriptions of charge transport and explore the numerous intrinsic features of molecules.



Visions for a molecular future pp385 - 389


Leading researchers in molecular electronics discuss the motivation behind their work and what they consider to be the grand challenges for the field.



Single-molecule junctions beyond electronic transport pp399 - 410

Sriharsha V. Aradhya & Latha Venkataraman


This Review describes emerging techniques for characterizing the fundamental properties of molecular junctions besides electronic transport.


From the archives



Strong spin–phonon coupling between a single-molecule magnet and a carbon nanotube nanoelectromechanical system

Marc Ganzhorn, Svetlana Klyatskaya, Mario Ruben & Wolfgang Wernsdorfer


The coupling between a single-molecule spin and a single phonon in a carbon nanotube is observed.

Probing the conductance superposition law in single-molecule circuits with parallel paths

H. Vazquez, R. Skouta, S. Schneebeli, M. Kamenetska, R. Breslow, L. Venkataraman & M.S. Hybertsen


Kirchhoff's conductance superposition law is investigated in single-molecule circuits. A single-molecule junction with two backbones in a parallel configuration can exhibit more than twice the conductance of a single-molecule junction with one backbone, a demonstration of constructive quantum interference.

Photocurrent of a single photosynthetic protein

Daniel Gerster, Joachim Reichert, Hai Bi, Johannes V. Barth, Simone M. Kaniber, Alexander W. Holleitner, Iris Visoly-Fisher, Shlomi Sergani & Itai Carmeli


The photocurrent generated by a single photosynthetic protein can be measured using a scanning near-field optical probe that functions as both an electrode and a light source.

Observation of quantum interference in molecular charge transport

Constant M. Guédon, Hennie Valkenier, Troels Markussen, Kristian S. Thygesen, Jan C. Hummelen & Sense Jan van der Molen


Charge-transport measurements provide direct evidence for destructive quantum interference in two-terminal molecular junctions at room temperature.

Mechanically controlled molecular orbital alignment in single molecule junctions

Christopher Bruot, Joshua Hihath & Nongjian Tao


The conductance of a single molecule of 1,4'-benzenedithiol bridged between two gold electrodes increases as it is stretched because the energy of the highest occupied molecular orbital is shifted towards the Fermi energy of the electrodes, leading to a resonant enhancement of the conductance.

In situ formation of highly conducting covalent Au–C contacts for single-molecule junctions

Z.-L. Cheng, R. Skouta, H. Vazquez, J. R. Widawsky, S. Schneebeli, W. Chen, M. S. Hybertsen, R. Breslow & L. Venkataraman


It is possible to form covalent bonds between the gold atoms in an electrode and the carbon atoms in the backbone of a conducting molecule to create highly conducting contacts.

Controlling single-molecule conductance through lateral coupling of π orbitals

Ismael Diez-Perez, Joshua Hihath, Thomas Hines, Zhong-Sheng Wang, Gang Zhou, Klaus Müllen & Nongjian Tao


The conductance of a single molecule can be reversibly tuned by mechanically changing the tilt angle between the molecule and contact electrodes.

Atomic-scale engineering of electrodes for single-molecule contacts

Guillaume Schull, Thomas Frederiksen, Andrés Arnau, Daniel Sánchez-Portal & Richard Berndt


The conductance of a single C60 molecule depends on the number of atoms in the electrodes that are in direct contact with the molecule.

Electroluminescence from a single nanotube–molecule–nanotube junction

Christoph W. Marquardt, Sergio Grunder, Alfred B&lstroke;aszczyk, Simone Dehm, Frank Hennrich, Hilbert v. Löhneysen, Marcel Mayor & Ralph Krupke


Voltage-induced light emission has been observed from a molecule attached to two carbon-nanotube electrodes.



Large tunable image-charge effects in single-molecule junctions

Mickael L. Perrin, Christopher J. O. Verzijl, Christian A. Martin, Ahson J. Shaikh, Rienk Eelkema, Jan H. van Esch, Jan M. van Ruitenbeek, Joseph M. Thijssen, Herre S. J. van der Zant & Diana Dulić


Electrically and mechanically tunable molecular junctions show large image-charge effects.

Long-range electron tunnelling in oligo-porphyrin molecular wires

Gita Sedghi, Víctor M. García-Suárez, Louisa J. Esdaile, Harry L. Anderson, Colin J. Lambert, Santiago Martín, Donald Bethell, Simon J. Higgins, Martin Elliott, Neil Bennett, J. Emyr Macdonald & Richard J. Nichols


A combination of calculations and electrical measurements on oligo-porphyrin wires in single-molecule junctions strongly suggest that the mechanism of long-range charge transport is phase-coherent electron tunnelling.

Giant magnetoresistance through a single molecule

Stefan Schmaus, Alexei Bagrets, Yasmine Nahas, Toyo K. Yamada, Annika Bork, Martin Bowen, Eric Beaurepaire, Ferdinand Evers & Wulf Wulfhekel


A single magnetic molecule between ferromagnetic contacts exhibits a 60% magnetoresistance effect and nearly metallic conduction at the same time.

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