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Chemists Making Contribution to Nobel Prize Innovations

October 18, 2016

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With the announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded to scientists working on "molecular machines", researchers in Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University's (XJTLU) Department of Chemistry are making their own contribution to the utilisation of this revolutionary technology.

The XJTLU research group, led by associate professor Li Yang, is working to incorporate molecules into conventional electronics, thus extremely reducing the size of electronic devices.

The group's work is already being recognised by the scientific community with the publishing of a paper in the journal "Nano Letters", a top level journal in the chemistry field with the impact factor of 13.78.

The research represents the first direct measurement of electrical properties using a graphene surface instead of a metal surface, which has been the focus of most previous research on this topic.

A reviewer from 'Nano Letters' said: "There is a fair number of reported studies such as these, but virtually all using metal, say gold, surfaces and tips. The study here and the results are important and scientifically novel. This paper addresses the important question of how an asymmetric graphene-molecule-gold structure compares with a symmetric gold-molecule-gold structure."

When compared to a conventional symmetric junction, the XJTLU researchers found that the asymmetric contacting and weak coupling at the molecule-graphene interface led to a stronger charge transfer than at a gold electrode-molecule interface. This implies that long molecular chains have a higher conductance of energy, with potential applications for low energy consuming molecular electronics.

Qian Zhang (photo), first author on the paper and a PhD student at XJTLU, said: "We're so excited to make this progress and get recognition from this high-profile journal. The techniques behind molecular machines are demonstrating the next steps in the miniaturisation of technology."

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa -- who were honoured for their work building the world's smallest machines out of chemical molecules.

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