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News

Delft nanotransistor in Nature

Delft University Of Technology : 26 November, 2006  (Technical Article)
Researcher Pablo Jarillo-Herrero of the Delft University of Technology has produced a superconductor nanotransistor using a carbon nanotube. The research is not only important for its fundamental knowledge about carbon nanotubes and the further improvement of transistors, but also opens the possibility of testing an entire series of physics theories experimentally.
Since their invention in 1947 transistors have become steadily better and faster. In order to improve transistors even further, and thus our electronics, researchers continue to search for new materials and other physics properties. For their transistors the Delft researchers are using one of the most promising new materials: exceptionally small tubes of carbon (carbon nanotubes). The electrical properties of these nanostructures are described by quantum mechanics.

The electrodes of the Delft quantum transistor comprise extremely small superconducting metal threads and the interleaved carbon nanotube is a so-called ‘quantum dot’. Quantum dots are small structures which perform as individual atoms.

In theory it was known that such a transistor could be made by placing a nanotube between superconducting electrodes. The Delft researchers Pablo Jarillo-Herrero and Jorden van Dam, from the group of Prof. Leo Kouwenhoven, have now been able to achieve this in practice. The research is not only important in terms of fundamental knowledge about carbon nanotubes and the further improvement of transistors, but also opens the possibility of testing an entire series of physics theories experimentally.

Jarillo-Herrero benefited from excellent collaboration between the various research groups in the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience in Delft. Delft has a long history of nano-research and superconducting in particular. This is exemplified by many years of successful work in the area of superconducting quantum bits. Researchers from this institute (together with Philips) had already succeeded in producing a more or less comparable superconducting transistor, although not by using nanotubes, but nanowires, extremely small threads.

One of the interesting aspects of this research is that complex switching can be enabled using multiple quantum transistors. Over the longer term such switching could form important building blocks for the computer of the future, the quantum computer.

During his TU Delft doctoral research Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (29) has been published several times in leading scientific journals such as Nature and Physical Review Letters. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in October and has since continued his research work in Delft as a post-doctoral researcher.
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