The computer industry has been working forever to try to boost the power of components while making them lighter and easier to make. One radical field is doing something on such a small scale that you can't even see it: creating circuits and devices from singular molecules.
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Researchers at Peking University of Beijing have been particularly successful, creating a switch that can be dependably flipped off and on when hit with a singular photon, which clears the way for small applications in systems to use light instead of the standard electricity.
Researchers have been looking into this field for a reason - light moves faster than electricity, which could, in theory, mean that computers will operate more quickly. Shrinking those components could mean even faster speeds and could be useful in light sensors, biomedical applications, light sensors, and solar panels, according to Scientific American.
Some of the previous attempts have worked for a while, but ended up with problems like getting stuck in the on position or not getting activated by different types of light. The Peking University researchers used different kinds of molecules that allows the switch to be stabilized and activated by light.
The switch could last for up to a year, which is an improvement on the shelf lives of some of the other attempts.
"In many cases, molecular junctions have lives of minutes, hours, or in fortunate cases days," Ioan Bâldea of the University of Heidelberg, Germany told Scientific American.
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While we are still years from these being sold to people, it's an important step.