Molecular electronic devices based on single-walled carbon nanotube electrodes

Acc Chem Res. 2008 Dec;41(12):1731-41. doi: 10.1021/ar8000266.


As the top-down fabrication techniques for silicon-based electronic materials have reached the scale of molecular lengths, researchers have been investigating nanostructured materials to build electronics from individual molecules. Researchers have directed extensive experimental and theoretical efforts toward building functional optoelectronic devices using individual organic molecules and fabricating metal-molecule junctions. Although this method has many advantages, its limitations lead to large disagreement between experimental and theoretical results. This Account describes a new method to create molecular electronic devices, covalently bridging a gap in a single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) with an electrically functional molecule. First, we introduce a molecular-scale gap into a nanotube by precise oxidative cutting through a lithographic mask. Now functionalized with carboxylic acids, the ends of the cleaved carbon nanotubes are reconnected with conjugated diamines to give robust diamides. The molecular electronic devices prepared in this fashion can withstand and respond to large environmental changes based on the functional groups in the molecules. For example, with oligoanilines as the molecular bridge, the conductance of the device is sensitive to pH. Similarly, using diarylethylenes as the bridge provides devices that can reversibly switch between conjugated and nonconjugated states. The molecular bridge can perform the dual task of carrying electrical current and sensing/recognition through biological events such as protein/substrate binding and DNA hybridization. The devices based on DNA can measure the difference in electrical properties of complementary and mismatched strands. A well-matched duplex DNA 15-mer in the gap exhibits a 300-fold lower resistance than a duplex with a GT or CA mismatch. This system provides an ultrasensitive way to detect single-nucleotide polymorphisms at the individual molecule level. Restriction enzymes can cleave certain cDNA strands assembled between the SWNT electrodes; therefore, these strands maintain their native conformation when bridging the ends of the SWNTs. This methodology for creating novel molecular circuits forges both literal and figurative connections between chemistry, physics, materials science, and biology and promises a new generation of integrated multifunctional sensors and devices.