University of Pittsburgh
August 24, 2003

W. M. Keck Foundation Awards $1.2 Million to Pitt's Surface Science Center

Funds joint projects in nanoscience molecular electronics
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The W. M. Keck Foundation will fund four projects in molecular electronics with a $1.2 million grant to the University of Pittsburgh's Surface Science Center.

"The field of molecular electronics is in an embryonic state at present, but when developed in the next quarter of a century, it will offer a substitute for silicon-based electronic technologies, which will permit a 100- to 1000-fold increase in device density on chips," said John T. Yates, R.K. Mellon Professor in Pitt's Department of Chemistry and the director of the Surface Science Center. "This increase will lead to developing faster and more powerful chips and, in turn, faster and more powerful devices."

In the field of molecular electronics, molecules are substituted for silicon structures that are etched onto a silicon chip.

The Surface Science Center will study the fundamental features of electronic conduction by single molecules and how the molecules can be modified to produce enhanced performance as electronic units.

The Keck Foundation's grants will provide three years of support to two related experimental programs directed by Yates, coupled with two theoretical programs directed by Kenneth Jordan, professor and chair of Pitt's Department of Chemistry, and David Beratan, R.J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry at Duke University.

Yates, his students, and postdoctoral assistants will study the electrical conductivity of single molecules near absolute zero temperature when they are chemically bonded to atomically clean surfaces of metals and semiconductors, using a new scanning tunneling microscope and other techniques developed at the Surface Science Center.

Jordan and Beratan will suggest appropriate molecules for study and will help to interpret the experimental results.

These investigations in molecular electronics will provide an entry into one important area of nanoscience, which has been established as a national and as a University priority for research in chemistry, physics, and engineering.

The grant from the Keck Foundation is supplemented by University funds from

N. John Cooper, dean of Pitt's Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences.