Continuous demand for more computing power is pushing the limitations of present day methods. This need is driving researchers to look for molecules with interesting properties and find ways to establish reliable contacts between molecular components and bulk materials in an electrode, in order to mimic conventional electronic elements at the molecular scale.

An example for such an element is the nanoscale diode (or molecular rectifier), which operates like a valve to facilitate electronic current flow in one direction. A collection of these nanoscale diodes, or molecules, has properties that resemble traditional electronic components such as a wire, transistor or rectifier.

"Creating and characterising the world's smallest diode is a significant milestone in the  development of molecular electronic devices," said Yoni Dubi, a researcher in the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.

The emerging field of single molecule electronics may provide a way to overcome Moore's Law - the observation that over the history of computing hardware the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years - beyond the limits of conventional silicon integrated circuits.

Researchers took a single DNA molecule constructed from 11 base pairs and connected it to an electronic circuit only a few nanometres in size.

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