Over the past several years there have been dramatic advances toward the realization of electronic computers integrated on the molecular scale. First, individual molecules were demonstrated that serve as incomprehensibly tiny switches and wires one million times smaller than those on conventional silicon microchips1–4. This has resulted very recently in the assembly and demonstration of tiny computer logic circuits built from such molecular-scale devices4–10.A major force responsible for these revolutionary developments has been the molecular electronics or ‘Moletronics’ Program organized by the US Government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Previously, DARPA gave birth to the Internet in the 1970s and 1980s, revolutionizing the way the world communicates. Now, the agency is setting its sights on a new revolution in the nature, structure, and scale of the very materials with which the world both computes and builds. Ultimately, to compute with molecular-scale structures — i.e. nanometer-scale structures — one must learn how to characterize and organize them on similar scales, one by one and in vast arrays. This is creating a whole new science and industry of ‘nanostructured materials’, such as are portrayed in Fig. 1.

Read full text on ScienceDirect

DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(02)05227-6