Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Physics


John A. Jaszczak


For half a century the integrated circuits (ICs) that make up the heart of electronic devices have been steadily improving by shrinking at an exponential rate. However, as the current crop of ICs get smaller and the insulating layers involved become thinner, electrons leak through due to quantum mechanical tunneling. This is one of several issues which will bring an end to this incredible streak of exponential improvement of this type of transistor device, after which future improvements will have to come from employing fundamentally different transistor architecture rather than fine tuning and miniaturizing the metal-oxide-semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFETs) in use today.

Several new transistor designs, some designed and built here at Michigan Tech, involve electrons tunneling their way through arrays of nanoparticles. We use a multi-scale approach to model these devices and study their behavior. For investigating the tunneling characteristics of the individual junctions, we use a first-principles approach to model conduction between sub-nanometer gold particles. To estimate the change in energy due to the movement of individual electrons, we use the finite element method to calculate electrostatic capacitances. The kinetic Monte Carlo method allows us to use our knowledge of these details to simulate the dynamics of an entire device— sometimes consisting of hundreds of individual particles—and watch as a device ‘turns on’ and starts conducting an electric current.

Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and the closely related scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS) are a family of powerful experimental techniques that allow for the probing and imaging of surfaces and molecules at atomic resolution. However, interpretation of the results often requires comparison with theoretical and computational models. We have developed a new method for calculating STM topographs and STS spectra. This method combines an established method for approximating the geometric variation of the electronic density of states, with a modern method for calculating spin-dependent tunneling currents, offering a unique balance between accuracy and accessibility.