back to article UNSW researcher creates four-atom silicon wires

Researchers at the University of New South Wales have created what the uni thinks is the narrowest-ever silicon conducting wire. At just four atoms wide and one atom tall, the wire has demonstrated a surprising property: Ohm’s law (current equals voltage divided by resistance) holds true even at such a tiny scale, the …


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  1. scarshapedstar


    The wire's so tiny, I can't even see the animation!

  2. Arctic fox


    "It is extraordinary to show that such a basic law still holds even when constructing a wire from the fundamental building blocks of nature – atoms..............."

    I look forward to the team demonstrating how one constructs a wire, of any type on any scale from any material you care to name, *without* using atoms. "Atomless" materials - the wave of the future.

    1. QuiteEvilGraham
      Thumb Up

      You spoiled it!

      That last sentence over-egged the cake! And you should have started with "I, for one, look forward...". Is this not the internet?

      Still an excellent comment though...

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Fundamental building blocks of nature?

      I could swear that I read somewhere that atoms are made up of smaller things.

      Can't remember what they are. Neutrals? Electrodes? Quirks? Boatswains? Something like that.

  3. MondoMan

    Rather than "...the resistivity of the wire *unaffected* by its width..." surely you meant to write that the resistivity *formula* remains unaffected by its width, as the resistivity itself should vary in an inverse linear fashion with the wire's width. The neat finding here is that the resistivity formula still holds for such narrow widths.

    1. Randolf McKinley


      Naa, the resistance of the wire depends on the width. The resistivity is independent of the width. They're not the same thing.

      1. Beau

        Tut, tut

        "Naa, the resistance of the wire depends on the width"

        Actually, the resistance of the wire depends on the area of its cross section, otherwise you are correct.

        1. Randolf McKinley


          Err, yeah, fail on my part!

  4. HMB

    Measurement Mystery

    It just makes me wonder how on earth they connected the crocodile clips leading to the multimeter on each end of it. :P

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Cayman clips........

  5. Michael Hoffmann

    Did I miss something?

    "She notes that the technique Weber’s research used would not be suitable for mass-produced chips. However, by demonstrating that quantum-scale wires can be made to demonstrate classical behaviours, the research holds out the prospect Moore’s Law can be kept intact for many years to come."

    So, what's the use of this to continue to develop electronics in accordance with Moore's Law when the method can't be used for mass production? Is it an unstated hope that a different method will achieve the same but *is* suitable for mass production?

    Any "boffins" (to use El Reg's favourite moniker) around to explain that to someone who isn't quite a quantum physicist? Thanks!

    Maybe I'm overinterpreting in reading a message of "we have a boutique method and can maintain Ohm's (and by extension Moore's) Law or we have mass production methods but run into a quantum-mechanical wall".

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      not a boffin

      but as I understand there was wide assumption that, at this scale, quantum effects take over classical ones and thus it would not be possible to build working electronic structure this small, ever. This research proved such assumptions to be incorrect and thus opens the way for more research into making electronic structures at this scale not only working, but also practicable.

      Mine is the smallest coat, the one you can't even see.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        You can't see itbecause I pinched it.

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      My guess...

      I'd hazard a guess that it comes down to the fact that previously every one thought it wasnt possible for Ohm's law to hold sway beyond 10nm. Now that its been shown that it is possible, the engineers can go away and work out how to make it work in the real world.

      Thats how Science and Engineering always work - Science shows us that something works (in a normally not-useful-in-the-real-world sort of way) and Engineering goes and turns it into useful products! (Disclaimer: Yes im an engineer, couldnt you tell? ;) )

  6. MondoMan


    Ahhh, resistivity = specific resistance. Thanks for pointing that out -- we software folk can be pretty dangerous on the EE side!

  7. Chemist

    Ratio of phosphorous to silicon

    I can't see how the doping is effective if only 4 silicon atoms are involved - I thought dopants replaced atoms in a matrix - the text and cartoon make it looks like the silicon is smothered in phosphorous

  8. Juan Inamillion

    More worryingly

    It'll only be a matter of time before scrap metal thieves figure out a way of nicking it...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moore's law

    isn't a law at all, it was a thumb in the air guesstamet

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