A team of researchers from Singapore have successfully used FEI's Titan scanning/transmission electron microscope (S/TEM) to link quantum plasmonics with molecular electronics.
FEI specialises in high-performance microscopy workflow solutions, and plasmon tunneling is a quantum-mechanical effect involving rapid oscillation of electrons across very closely-spaced metal particles.
As part of the study, researchers directly observed the phenomenon of quantum plasmonic tunneling, while controlling the frequency of the tunnelling currents by inserting single layers of various molecules in-between the closely-packed metal particles.
The team involved researchers from National University of Singapore, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and the A*STAR institutes: Institute of High Performance Computing and Institute of Materials Research and Engineering.
A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering's Dr. Michel Bosman said: "In our research, we were able to demonstrate that the rapid current oscillations could take place over distances larger than a nanometer, which, although extremely small, opens up possibilities for new technological applications."
Researchers noted that the speed of the switching directly relies on the nature of the deployed molecules.
The study involved placing surface plasmons in metal particles by just shining the exact colour of light on them.
The incoming light would generate the small tunneling currents between the close by metal particles, leading to the formation of small electrical circuits operating at very high speeds.
Currently available electrical circuits are capable of operating at up to GHz frequencies, while due to f design-related issues, this turns out to be close to their inherent speed limit at room temperature.
The research demonstrates a possible route for new circuits, by light-produced tunnelling currents that have operational speeds tens of thousands of times faster compared to currently available microprocessors.
FEI Materials Science VP and GM, Trisha Rice, said: "This is incredible work being done by these researchers in Singapore, using the high-energy resolution of a monochromated Titan S/TEM to directly observe and control a quantum plasmonic tunneling event."