Author(s): Hush NS
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Abstract The seminal ideas from which molecular electronics has developed were the theories of molecular conduction advanced in the late 1940s by Robert S. Mulliken and Albert Szent-Gyorgi. These were, respectively, the concept of donor-acceptor charge transfer complexes and the possibility that proteins might in fact not be insulators The next two decades saw a burgeoning of experimental and theoretical work on electron transfer systems, together with a lone effort by D.D. Eley on conduction in proteins. The call by Feynman in his famous 1959 lecture There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom for chemists, engineers and physicists to combine to build up structures from the molecular level was influential in turning attention to the possibility of engineering single molecules to function as elements in information-processing systems. This was made tangible by the proposal of Aviram and Ratner in 1974 to use a Mulliken-like electron donor-acceptor molecule as a molecular diode, generalizing molecular conduction into molecular electronics. In the early 1970s the remarkably visionary work of Forrest L. Carter of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratories began to appear: designs for molecular wires, switches, complex molecular logic elements, and a host of related ideas were advanced. Shortly after that, conferences on molecular electronics began to be held, and the interdisciplinary programs that Feynman envisaged. There was a surge in both experimental and theoretical work in molecular electronics, and the establishment of many research centres. The past five years or so have seen extraordinarily rapid progress in fabrication and theoretical understanding. The history of how separate lines of research emanating from fundamental insights of about 50 years ago have coalesced into a thriving international research program in what might be called the ultimate nanotechnology is the subject of this review; it concentrates on the lesser-appreciated early developments in the field.
This article was published in Ann N Y Acad Sci
and referenced in Journal of Chemical Engineering & Process Technology