Skip to main content

Queen’s CNM team in nanocircuitry breakthrough

Nature Communications paper paves way for shape-shifting nanoscale electronic devices

Purple flashes of dramatic horizontal lightning

Researchers from the School’s Centre for Nanostructured Media have mapped crucial details of electrical conduction in a ‘domain wall’ within a single crystal, potentially paving the way for new kinds of electronic devices.

Scientists have known for some years that if you polarise one side of a crystal in one direction and the other side in another, the interior surface where the regions meet acts like a highly conducting sheet of material a single atom thick.

Crucially, by applying fields to the crystals, such sheets or ‘domain walls’ can be created, destroyed, or moved from one point to another. Learning to measure and control these processes may open up the possibility of using the walls as tiny, shape-shifting electrical connections, potentially leading to the development of novel, nanoscale electronic devices.

The CNM team, in a paper published in Nature Communications, has taken a significant step in that direction, using a novel scanning technique to map out the fundamental mechanisms associated with the flow of electrical current.

This could be a significant breakthrough in the quest to develop new ways of miniaturising electronic devices. “These devices have been getting smaller and smaller for decades” says Prof Marty Gregg, leader of the research team. “But there comes a point where you simply can’t shrink the wires any further. One way to get beyond that limit is to generate a domain wall at specific locations inside a crystal to fulfil a specific task. You can then reconfigure it to perform the next task, and so on”.

The team is the first to characterise the conduction properties of such domain walls. The full paper is available here.


21 December 2016