Resubmission of IMPRESS: Intra-Molecular Propagation of Electron Spin States

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Materials


There is an intense worldwide search, spanning both academic and commercial sectors, to find a realistic route toward computing with molecular scale structures. The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (, a definitive document for the electronics industry, now recognises that conventional 'top-down' technologies may have a limited remaining lifespan. It advocates a search for next generation technologies, recognising that molecular scale computation is an exceptionally promising prospect. It further highlights quantum information processing (QIP), the technology that would result from manipulating coherent superpositions of states, as having immense potential for certain applications. The research we describe here aims to create prototype elements for technologies of those classes.Project IMPRESS is concerned with the electron spin states within individual nanostructures, specifically carbon nanotube 'peapods'. Through a variety of characterisation techniques, and pioneering synthetic chemistry, we will develop the ability to engineer spin-spin interactions along a one-dimensional chain of intra-tube spins. Recent high-profile theoretical studies have shown that such a spin chain would have highly remarkable properties. It would be capable of rapidly transferring the spin states, i.e. the information, along the chain purely by virtue of the spin-spin interactions without any externally applied voltage or power dissipation. Moreover it is even possible to generate multi-spin entanglement, the underlying resource for QIP, purely through the free evolution of such a chain. Thus a molecular device of this kind could constitute a key building block for any technology based on information processing with electron spins, especially QIP.


10 25 50
Description Atomic resolution control of spin states in graphene nano ribbons
Exploitation Route Single-molecule devices for low-energy ICT
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description University of Oxford
Amount £365,792 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/H001972/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Description Quantum of Spin 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Quantum of Spin exhibit was the largest and among the most successful of the many exhibits at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in 2012. Over the course of 1 week from 3 to 8 July, our team explained their research to over ten thousand visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description Wonder in carbon land: how do you hold a molecule? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Carbon is a unique element because bonds are easily made between carbon atoms. This allows carbon to form complex structures such as the 'Buckyball' a tiny cage made up of 60 carbon atoms. Scientists are using these nanocages and other structures known as nanotubes to create unique products and to explore the properties of atoms.

'Once an atom is contained within a nanocage it can't react with anything allowing us to examine the atom's individual properties,' explains Andrei Khlobystov, a chemist at the University of Nottingham. 'Nanotubes are used to contain reactions, just like a regular test tube, but in a much more controlled way.'

When a reaction takes place in a normal test tube the product can be unpredictable as branches can form at random points along the chains of molecules. Within the miniscule confines of a nanotube branching is not possible so the products of reactions are uniform chains of molecules.

'We pump molecules into a nanotube, and use light or heat to set off the reaction,' says Andrei. 'The molecules react to form polymers or plastics whose properties are entirely based on the molecular structure. So by precise control of the molecular structure you can build products with specific properties, such as mechanical strength.'

'Come along to our exhibit and get involved. We'll be building giant fullerene origami models which you can add your own graffiti art to. Leave your signature or a scribble. We're also going to have plenty of hands-on activities, give-aways and demos. There's even going to be a magician performing illusions related to quantum computing. We look forward to seeing you!' say the exhibit team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008