A team of UCLA chemists has moved a step closer to building computer components based not on silicon but on organic chemicals, with the creation of a rudimentary molecular switch that can be repeatedly turned on and off--a necessary property to make a usable computer logic gate. The team, headed by James R. Heath and J. Fraser Stoddart, reported in today's issue of Science magazine that the new switches could be reused hundreds of times, a major advance over its previous effort.
In July 1999, the team published a paper in Science announcing the creation of the first simple molecular logic gate, although it could be used only once. Molecular logic gates hold the promise of creating enormously powerful computing devices no bigger than a grain of sand.
Building commercial devices is still years away, although Heath said the progress in creating its basic components is moving at a faster pace than he expected. "The steps are no longer a slow walk but a fast jog," he said.