Molecular-Metal-Oxide-nanoelectronicS (M-MOS): Achieving the Molecular Limit

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Chemistry


Our vision is to demonstrate functional circuits using molecular metal-oxides (MMOs), connecting self-assembled MMOs into top-down, lithographically defined CMOS architectures with the ultimate aim of achieving the molecular limit in data storage and processing: i.e. realising inorganic, single molecule transistors. Our proposal is unique because: (i) it identifies a new class of inherently CMOS-compatible and functional molecules that have not previously been considered (or even patented) for 'beyond-Moore' applications; (ii) it aims to address key practicalities of scalability, interfacing, stability and reproducibility that are often omitted from schemes aiming simply to construct a single demonstrator device; and (iii) it is underpinned by a strongly-collaborative team with complementary expertise in molecular synthesis, modelling and device fabrication. This project is highly creative and adventurous, proposing that inorganic molecules could be reliably used in the fabrication of nano-electronic devices that take advantage of the intrinsic electronic properties of molecules as switchable molecular semiconductors (EPSRC success feature 1). It supports talent at all levels - from senior professors to early career researchers - in a highly supportive and collaborative context (EPSRC success feature 2). Initially, we propose to design hybrid devices combing CMOS embedded with bistable MMOs and to examine the interplay between 'bulk' and nano-molecular semiconducting units. Our approach is both innovative and practical because it embeds molecular electronics within the current the state-of-the-art, allowing us to address practical issues and develop know-how in this new field, before down-scaling to 'beyond-Moore' dimensions down to the molecular limit with collaborations that achieve a two-way flow of knowledge between the research base and industry (Building collaborations that achieve a two-way flow of knowledge between the research base and industry (EPSRC success feature 3) and at the same time this proposal encourages and supports research that crosses the borders between disciplines (EPSRC success feature 4). Theoretical studies of both single clusters and arrays will allow us to predict their behaviour and design new architectures; surface studies and device measurements will enable us to assess the electronic characteristics of devices and drive us towards viable nanoelectronics that can be mass-produced therby developing a shared vision of tomorrow's major challenges and opportunities with stakeholders: society, industry, universities and other partners (EPSRC succes feature 5). We aim to show that MMO-CMOS (herein called M-MOS) can function with 'embedded' molecular units and we plan towards the single molecule limit. This potential will be assessed and exploited within the Glasgow Nano EPSRC KTA (EP/H500138/1) allowing 'real-time' technology transfer allowing us to immediately seize any commercial development opportunities thereby building a better understanding of where we should focus our effort to benefit both UK society and the UK economy and increase its global competitiveness (ESPRC success feature 6).Finally this programme will directly train 7 PDRAs and 4 PhDs and indirectly train 8 further PhDs and 24 undergraduate / erasmus students thereby creating and sustaining research scientists and engineers in the UK so that they are recognised worldwide as leaders in their field (EPSRC success feature 7).

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research? The semi-conductor / microelectronics / nano-fabrication industries will be the major beneficiaries of this research at all levels from multi-nationals to SMEs and spin out companies. In addition UK HEIs, students and the general public will also be beneficiaries as well as the UK-PLC as a whole. How will they benefit from this research? Industry: The semi-conductor / microelectronics / nano-fabrication industries will benefit from the new technologies generated in this research since it will provide, in the short term, performance upgrades to CMOS-based devices, as well as building in the ability to down-scale towards the molecular limit over the coming decade or two without the problems described above in the background. These benefits will be of great interest also to SMEs and spin-outs that develop niche applications that will directly utilize and develop some of the technology in other directions developing 'niche' high value applications. The interactions between Chemists, Physicists, and Electrical Engineers proposed in this grant will also yield great potential teaching and research benefits for the students and the University. This is because undergraduate, ERASMUS, and PhD students will get the chance to take part in research that crosses the interface of this project and it may also be possible to develop a research masters based on this area that will train the next generation of researchers and engineers for nano-electronics. General Public: The general public will benefit from this research from the increase in wealth that will be developed and the public understanding and promotion of science activities planned through public lectures at Glasgow / Edinburgh Science Weeks, Caf Scientifique, via the PPE grant that the PI is involved in entitled Giants of the Infinitesimal EP/G062536/1 which aims to bring the nano-world to life. What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this research? This programme grant will incorporate an technology transfer element that will allow 'real-time' technology transfer to industry including multi-nationals, SMEs, and spin-outs. This technology transfer element will interact directly with the EPSRC funded Nanotechnology Knowledge Training Account (KTA) awarded to the University of Glasgow & Glasgow University Research and Enterprise. Through the KTA we will exploit and give this work visibility, interact with end-users, and develop a forum of interested parties that will receive information and progress about the project as it proceeds. We will make some of our funding available to ensure the following technology overlaps / exploitation / collaborations are developed: (i) Part funding of a technology transfer 'researcher' who's job it is to identify new ideas and possibilities in the programme research that can be transferred to partners by seconding this individual to the partner lab. As a result of this cross departmental collaboration, new approaches to molecular and engineering nanosciences will be developed. In synergy with the project the WP leaders will develop a lecture / workshop module to address the interdisciplinary aspects; three modules are planned from a chemical, electrical engineering, and modelling perspective. It is envisaged that as the programme develops and expands that the training element could expand into a MSc. Course in molecular and engineering nanoscience. General Public: A website will be established called Nanochemistry-NOW! that will explain our project, the collaboration, the big idea, and the advances expected. In addition we will give lectures at Glasgow Science week and Caf Scientifique. One example to be given by LC is 'Molecular nanosciences: Computing with molecules .


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Baker ML (2012) A classification of spin frustration in molecular magnets from a physical study of large odd-numbered-metal, odd electron rings. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Boulay AG (2012) Morphogenesis of polyoxometalate cluster-based materials to microtubular network architectures. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

Title Brainwaves 
Description Prof Cronin has appeared on the BBC Radio Scotland "Brainwaves" program, in which he discusses his work, the origin of life, and his development as a scientist. (link below for a limited time only) 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Scottish audience (but also available on-line) 
Title Disruptive Interview 
Description In an interview for the 3D printing magazine "Disruptive", Lee Cronin discusses his approach of using 3D printing technology for drug discovery and pharmaceuticals, and the digitalisation of the chemical world. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact target audience 
Title People Behind the Science 
Description Prof Cronin has appeared on the "People Behind the Science" podcast, where he shared his views on the Origin of Life, and on how chemistry gets complicated, as well as discussing his life as a scientist. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact inspiration 
Title TED Talk 
Description The idea is to make a device that could download plans for molecules and create them, in exactly the way that 3D printers can download plans and create objects. He would have a universal set of software, hardware and inks, and he believes all of them, including the ink, could be fantastically cheap. The software would be the product; the materials would be commodities. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact What would this mean? It would mean that you could print your own medicine. First, his team going to look at drug discovery and manufacturing. If drugs could be manufactured easily, they could be distributed anywhere - even printed at the point of need. If a new super-bug emerges, you could print a treatment right where it breaks out. Ultimately, Cronin says, "For me the cool bit, going into the future, is the idea of taking your own stem cells with your own genes and environment and printing your own medicine." Quickly delivered, cheap, personalized medicine. Does that sound like enough? If not, in the long long run, "You could make a matter fabricator. Beam me up, Scotty!" 
Title Through the Wormhole 
Description Lee Cronin and Cronin group research were featured on the latest episode of Through the Wormhole. Lee explained his theory of chemical evolution that pre-dates biological evolution without genes. The episode was broadcast on the Science Channel, and the Cronin Group research can be seen in the first section of the 1-hour episode. (with Morgan Freeman) 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Large audience. 
Description A range of new molecules synthesised (>50), mass spectrometry screening implemented; Heteroatom guest clusters discovered and characterised with unprecedented REDOX chemistry. Substrate assembly work simplified thanks to feedback from modelling results.Molecular simulations for a range of host-guest clusters as a function of heteroatom; Modelling of flash ram as a function of molecule type, density and organisation; experiments interfacing to silicon devices with Gold Standard Theory.Interfacing of molecules to electrode arrays done; Design of new devices to characterise molecules on nanowire devices rather than electrometer. Development of CMOS based ISFET sensors to image POM assembly on surfaces.
Exploitation Route Using some of the molecules we discovered during the programme grant we discovered a new way of controlling the growth of polyoxometalate based microtubes that could be fabricated in real time to produce microfluidic devices. We constructed an device using a laser system connected to a IPAD which allows us to control the system and 'wire-up' tubular networks on the fly in real time. In the course of our device engineering work we came up with a new approach to integrate CMOS sensors with reactor platforms to explore chemical reactions in real time. Not only can we monitor the reactions but we also devised a platform for the control and processing of chemical reactions using integrated CMOS. The result is a new platform that could allow computations to be done using hybrid electro-chemical systems and substrates. From our construction of reactors to monitor cluster formation in the mass spectrometer we found a new approach for the synthesis of molecules by coupling feedback from the sensor system to the chemical inputs. This allowed us to devised a new route for exploring array / combinatorial chemistry much faster than before by developing new chemistry, engineering, analytics as well as new algorithms for navigating the parameter space.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy

Description From: Single molecule technology could finally break Moore's law and allow gadgets to store huge amounts of data on tiny flash storage cards. Chemists behind the new molecules say the new technology could help solve the looming flash storage dilemma. Flash memory, used in nearly all of our favourite gadgets, is hampered by the physical limits of data cells, which currently use metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) components. These are almost impossible to manufacture at a scale below ten nanometers, setting an upper limit on the how much can be stored. Scientists have now claimed a breakthrough in the use of individual molecules as a replacement for conventional data-storage components. The benefits are massive, or rather very small, with huge amounts of data potentially being stored on tiny flash memory units. Moore's law, which states that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, could be broken if researches can put multiple bits of data on a single molecule Laia Vila Nadal, Felix Iglesias Escudero, Leroy Cronin, Cronin Group, School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow The team from the University of Glasgow and Rovira i Virgili University in Spain have successfully designed and synthesised new molecules that work in a similar way to transistors. The new metal-oxide clusters, known as polyoxometalates (POMs), are detailed in the journal Nature. Professor Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow, who led the research team, said that the new technology had incredible potential. "The incorporation of molecules will allow us to further scale down and extend Moore's law and potentially even go beyond this with multiple bits of storage per single molecule," he told "One major benefit of the POMs we've created is that it's possible to fabricate them with devices which are already widely-used in industry, so they can be adopted as new forms of flash memory without requiring production lines to be expensively overhauled." Don't miss Single-atom transistor beats Moore's Law by eight years Single-atom transistor beats Moore's Law by eight years Previous attempts to develop these high-tech molecules have been hampered by significant barriers. Low thermal stability and high resistance have both limited their use in existing gadgets. Flash memory uses transistors that "remember" when they've been turned on or off, even when no longer powered. These transistors correspond to binary, allowing data to be stored. The researchers have now been able to design, synthesise and control POM molecules that can catch a charge and behave in the same way as flash RAM. The new technology could also provide a more secure way to store sensitive information. Known as "write-once-erase" the method of storage would make it impossible to recover secret data once it has been deleted, researchers claimed. With the work still in the early stages, it isn't clear when this technology will be market-ready.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services