Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)
College, School or Department Name
Department of Physics
The remarkable advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology over the last two decades allow one to manipulate individuals atoms, molecules and nanostructures, make it possible to build devices with only a few nanometers, and enhance the nano-bio fusion in tackling biological and medical problems. It complies with the ever-increasing need for device miniaturization, from magnetic storage devices, electronic building blocks for computers, to chemical and biological sensors. Despite the continuing efforts based on conventional methods, they are likely to reach the fundamental limit of miniaturization in the next decade, when feature lengths shrink below 100 nm. On the one hand, quantum mechanical efforts of the underlying material structure dominate device characteristics. On the other hand, one faces the technical difficulty in fabricating uniform devices. This has posed a great challenge for both the scientific and the technical communities. The proposal of using a single or a few organic molecules in electronic devices has not only opened an alternative way of miniaturization in electronics, but also brought up brand-new concepts and physical working mechanisms in electronic devices.
This thesis work stands as one of the efforts in understanding and building of electronic functional units at the molecular and atomic levels. We have explored the possibility of having molecules working in a wide spectrum of electronic devices, ranging from molecular wires, spin valves/switches, diodes, transistors, and sensors. More specifically, we have observed significant magnetoresistive effect in a spin-valve structure where the non-magnetic spacer sandwiched between two magnetic conducting materials is replaced by a self-assembled monolayer of organic molecules or a single molecule (like a carbon fullerene). The diode behavior in donor(D)-bridge(B)-acceptor(A) type of single molecules is then discussed and a unimolecular transistor is designed. Lastly, we have proposed and primarily tested the idea of using functionalized electrodes for rapid nanopore DNA sequencing. In these studies, the fundamental roles of molecules and molecule-electrode interfaces on quantum electron transport have been investigated based on first-principles calculations of the electronic structure. Both the intrinsic properties of molecules themselves and the detailed interfacial features are found to play critical roles in electron transport at the molecular scale. The flexibility and tailorability of the properties of molecules have opened great opportunity in a purpose-driven design of electronic devices from the bottom up. The results that we gained from this work have helped in understanding the underlying physics, developing the fundamental mechanism and providing guidance for future experimental efforts.
He, Haiying, "Electron transport in molecular systems", Dissertation, Michigan Technological University, 2010.