Molecular machines drive plasmonic nanoswitches

February 12th, 2009 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 12 (IANS) Plasmonics may open the way to the next generation of computers that operate faster and store more information than electronically-based systems and are also smaller.
“If plasmonics are realised, the future will have circuits as small as the current electronic ones with a capacity a million times better,” said Tony Jun Huang, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State University.

“Plasmonics combines the speed and capacity of photonic (light based) circuits with the small size of electronic circuits,” he added.

Plasmonics combines the best of electronic and optical circuits and can transmit electrons and light at the same time using the surface of the device.

Huang’s team created a plasmonic switch from switchable bistable rotaxanes. Rotaxanes are complex molecules that consist of a dumb-bell shape with a ring or rings encircling the shaft and are sometimes called molecular machines.

The ring can either move from one end of the barbell to the other or rotate around the shaft. Changes in molecular shape are the basis of the plasmonic switch.

Plasmonic circuits have not yet been achieved. “We are in the very beginning of this field. Creation of a plasmonic circuit is probably five years away,” said Huang

In essence, plasmonic devices would allow computers to get faster and have more memory storage in smaller spaces. Storage of as much as 1,000 movies on a typical USB drive would be possible, said a Penn State release.

Huang suggests that applications like YouTube, which are very popular but have terrible resolution, could become places to see high-resolution images.

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