Physicist Professor Thomas Schimmel and his Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) team have developed a single-atom transistor, the smallest transistor worldwide. This quantum electronics component switches electrical current by controlled repositioning of a single atom, now also in the solid state in a gel electrolyte. The single-atom transistor works at room temperature and consumes very little energy, which opens up entirely new perspectives for information technology.
They produced two minute metallic contacts. Between them, there is a gap as wide as a single metal atom. "By an electric control pulse, we position a single silver atom into this gap and close the circuit," Professor Thomas Schimmel explains. "When the silver atom is removed again, the circuit is interrupted." The world's smallest transistor switches current through the controlled reversible movement of a single atom. Contrary
to conventional quantum electronics components, the single-atom transistor does not only work at extremely low temperatures near absolute zero, i.e. -273°C, but already at room temperature. This is a big advantage for future applications.