Researchers target single atom devices for comms apps

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Funded by a donation of €10.5million from the Swiss Werner Siemens-Foundation, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and ETH Zurich plan to conduct joint research into new types of integrated circuits for communications networks. The work to be undertaken at the joint Centre of Single Atom Electronics and Photonics aims to create devices which are characterised by their atomic dimension and their energy efficiency.

“I would like to thank the Werner Siemens-Foundation for enabling KIT and ETH Zurich to complement each other’s expertise within this cross-border cooperation, which I am certain will be of benefit to research, teaching, and innovation on both sides,” said KIT president Professor Holger Hanselka.

“The generous donation from the Werner Siemens-Foundation provides a unique opportunity to pool the skills of KIT and ETH in the field of electronics and photonics of individual electrons. This will strengthen fundamental research and accelerate the translation into practical applications,” added ETH president Lino Guzzella.

According to the partners, researchers at the new centre are likely to create devices that are up to 1000 times smaller than comparable parts made today using CMOS technology, with a similar reduction in energy consumption.

“We plan to pursue an innovative research approach that is based on our latest findings which show that components with atomic dimensions not only work reliably, but are also more energy-efficient,” says coordinator Professor Jürg Leuthold, from the ETH Institute of Electromagnetic Fields.

“With this new Centre, we now have a tool to translate fundamental research into single-atom switching devices into industrial prototypes and marketable products,” noted Professor Thomas Schimmel of KIT’s Institute of Applied Physics, who developed the first single-atom transistor in 2004. It consists of two electrodes that are separated by a single silver atom only.

In the next step, KIT and ETH researchers will use the initial prototypes to create new logic and memory modules, then develop the first simple chips for a new generation of atomic-scale components.