New Way to Conduct Electricity

May 10, 2004 | Source: KurzweilAI

A team of scientists has developed a way to create a thin film of gold nanoparticles in nanocrystals that that conduct electricity in a way never seen before. “It’s an entirely new electronic device,” said Davidson physics professor Dan Boye. “It’s sort of a hybrid between a resistor and a capacitor.”

The film exhibits a quantum mechanical “tunneling” effect. Electricity traveles through the gold film not in a smooth flow, but by jumping, or “tunneling” in sequence from one gold particle to the adjacent one. Scientists were aware of the effect at the atomic level, but had never previously seen it in a larger, three-dimensional macroscopic level.

In addition, electrons remain attached to the gold particles even when the voltage is removed. That property indicates that the film could be used as a memory device. Boye said that the concept of self-assembled, ordered films of nanoparticles isn’t limited to gold, but is reproducible with other materials. The assembly process also seems highly attractive and economical in the industry.