As electronics become smaller and smaller the need to understand nanoscale phenomena becomes greater and greater. Because materials exhibit different properties at the nanoscale than they do at larger scales, new techniques are required to understand and to exploit these new phenomena. A team of researchers led by Paul Weiss, UCLA’s Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences, has developed a tool to study nanoscale interactions. Their device is a dual scanning tunneling and microwave-frequency probe that is capable of measuring the interactions between single molecules and the surfaces to which the molecules are attached.
“Our probe can generate data on the physical, chemical, and electronic interactions between single molecules and substrates, the contacts to which they are attached. Just as in semiconductor devices, contacts are critical here,” remarked Weiss, who directs UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute and is also a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry & materials science and engineering.
The team, which also includes theoretical chemist Mark Ratner from Northwestern University and synthetic chemist James Tour from Rice University, published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Nano.
The new information provided by the team’s probe focuses on what the limits of electronics will be, rather than targeting devices for production. Also, because the probe is capable of a wide variety of measurements — including physical, chemical and electronic — it could enable researchers to identify submolecular structures in complex biomolecules and assemblies.
The California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA> is an integrated research facility located at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations in nanoscience and nanotechnology; to train a new generation of scientists, educators and technology leaders; to generate partnerships with industry; and to contribute to the economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world. The CNSI was established in 2000 with $100 million from the state of California. An additional $850 million of support has come from federal research grants and industry funding. CNSI members are drawn from UCLA's College of Letters and Science, the David Geffen School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, the School of Public Health, and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. They are engaged in measuring, modifying and manipulating atoms and molecules — the building blocks of our world. Their work is carried out in an integrated laboratory environment. This dynamic research setting has enhanced understanding of phenomena at the nanoscale and promises to produce important discoveries in health, energy, the environment and information technology.
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