Molecular electronics: what will future gadgets be like?

Molecular electronics: what will future gadgets be like?

The discovery that won the latest Nobel Prize in physics seems far away from our life, but one day everything could change with the arrival of molecular gadgets. We've tried to look into the future.

The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krauss and Anne L'Huillier for their experiments to create short light pulses that will allow them to study processes inside atoms and molecules. It sounds very scientific and seems to have nothing to do with our lives. But in reality, this discovery opens up completely new possibilities for the development of different types of technologies and devices.

Scientists have created extremely short pulses of light, the duration of which is measured in attoseconds, which are many times less than seconds and which measure the super-fast movement of electrons inside atoms and molecules. Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krauss and Anne L'Huillier were able to create and track a series of sequential light pulses, each lasting just 250 attoseconds. Why is this so important? Because it is the ability to track the movement of electrons inside atoms that opens up revolutionary possibilities for studying matter and creating far more advanced technologies than we have today.

© Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krauss and Anne L'Huillier; Nobel Prize/YouTube.

What is molecular electronics?

Experiments with extremely short pulses of light could potentially affect all kinds of devices. For example, this discovery could significantly improve medical diagnostic equipment - and thus prevent and cure more diseases. In the broader field of electronics, it could bring us closer to the creation of so-called molecular electronics. It will potentially be possible to use light attosecond pulses to turn electrons into conductors, carrying current in a stunningly fast time. Particles of molecules could be used as components for the nanomolecular gadgets of the future. In other words, it would make it possible to create device components, such as memory elements or transistors, the size of a molecule! So far we have only seen such things in science fiction movies, and now the future is getting a ball closer.

When will nanomolecular gadgets appear?

On the path to creating nanomolecular gadgets of the future, there are still many scientific and technical problems that have not yet been solved. The main problem is the lack of ways to connect molecular conductors to traditional electrodes. In addition, the creation of molecular technologies requires a huge amount of energy, and we are already overheating the planet.

Research in the field of synthesis of new materials that can be used to create molecular devices has shown that conductive polymers are the most promising as conductors of the future. The technology for their synthesis is called "spintronics". The year 2024 brought new discoveries in this field, including new types of conductive polymers with exceptionally high optical activity. One of them was the research of the scientific group of the Japanese University of Tsukuba, which managed to synthesize a new promising type of conductive polymer. New discoveries are ahead...