Monday, October 05, 2009

Single atoms in semiconductors

One last post before the obligatory Nobel post tomorrow.

Recently, there has been progress in examining the electronic transport properties of individual dopant atoms in semiconductors.  There are several motivations for this.  First and probably foremost, with increasing miniaturization we are rapidly approaching the limit when the active channel in semiconductor devices will contain, statistically, only a small number of dopants; it makes sense to figure out how these systems work and whether they have any intrinsically useful properties.  Second, these systems are the ultimate small-size limit of quantum dots, even smaller than single-molecule transistors.  Third, since the host materials are extremely well-studied, and quantum chemistry calculations can handle the relevant volumes of material, there is the possibility of realistic, detailed theoretical treatments.  This paper is a great example of treating an individual phosphorus donor in Si as a quantum dot.  This other paper looks at a single arsenic donor, and can see Kondo physics involving the unpaired electron on the donor site interacting with the (valley degenerate) Si conduction electrons.  Very cool stuff!

1 comment:

Don Monroe said...

Since the Bohr radius of a phoshorus donor in silicon is about 16 Angstroms, I'm not sure I'd agree that they are smaller than single-molecule transistors. In fact, the electronic states of a typical hydrogenic impurity is big enough that electron-phonon coupling isn't very important, which can't be said for the molecular states.

Which is not to say that these are not fun papers.