With single DNA molecules, researchers were able to create the smallest diode, which is an important component of electronic devices. Their work shows promise to the quest for materials that can replace the silicon chip someday.

A diode enables current to flow in one direction smoothly and disables opposite flow direction. Such feature is vital to many devices for optimal function and efficiency.

With the new discovery of researchers from the University of Georgia and at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, the world may see smaller but more robust and modern devices in the future.

Challenge For Experts

Lead author Bingqian Xu says experts have been adding more and more calculating capabilities into smaller chips. Now, they are heightening up the physical boundaries of silicon. However, if silicon chips are decreased in size more and more, its performance will turn shaky and erratic.

Xu and colleagues then turned to DNA to possibly solve this problem. The reason for picking DNA is because it is foreseeable, varied and programmable. These features make it perfect for electronic devices that use single molecules.

Finding The Answer In DNA

The team created the smallest diode using only a single DNA molecule. They did this by first isolating a particularly-designed DNA and linking it with an electronic circuit measuring only a few nanometers.

The current did not exhibit any notable behaviors so the researchers inserted a small molecule called coralyne into the DNA. The resulting effect is that the current flowed through the DNA with a strength 15 times higher in negative than positive voltages. Such finding is an essential characteristic of a diode.

"This finding is quite counterintuitive because the molecular structure is still seemingly symmetrical after coralyne intercalation," says Xu.

Future Possibilities

Xu says their work can pave the way for progress in terms of designing and creating nanoscale electronic components that are at the minimum, 1,000 times tinier than existing elements.

The team is looking at continuing their work and aims to develop more molecular equipment and improve the ability of the molecular diode.

The study was published in the journal Nature Chemistry on Monday.

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