FoS Wins Young Researcher Award

29 Apr 2016 NUS scientist wins the Young Researcher Award for ground-breaking work in molecular electronics.

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Assoc Prof Christian NIJHUIS’ team is interested in using non-conventional fabrication techniques to produce structures with unique properties to advance fundamental understanding and to improve the performance of nano-scale opto-electronic devices.

His research mainly focuses on studies of the mechanisms of charge transport at the nano-scale, with a large emphasis on molecule-electrode interfaces, which are important to understand for applications ranging from energy storage and green energy, to device miniaturisation. His team focuses on investigating charge transport at the molecular scale and uses self-assembled monolayers of molecules (layers that are exactly one molecule thick) contacted by two electrodes. His group developed a new method to fabricate such molecular electronic devices and they have been working for years to improve molecular diodes. The challenge in this type of research is to disentangle all the key factors that affect performance. For instance, the electronic structure and the supramolecular structure of the diodes depends on each other making it difficult to understand the role of each component of the junction.

Now Assoc Prof Nijhuis’ team makes world-record molecular diodes and applies them in new areas of research. For instance, the molecular diodes can be used in nano-scale opto-electronics to excite and control surface plasmons (which can be seen as light captured in small metal structures). This research direction is important in the area of ultra-high speed electronics. But his team is also interested in contributing to scientific problems and aims to uncover the mechanisms behind tunnelling phenomena across molecules and light-matter interaction in molecular junctions. For instance, by combining the concepts of molecular electronics with plasmonics, his team has uncovered new physics in quantum plasmonics and developed molecular electronic plasmon sources.

They continue to study and improve molecular electronic devices via improvements of molecular structures, molecule-electrode interfaces, and combining molecular junctions with two-dimensional (2D) materials and functional biomolecules.

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Figure shows a focused electron beam (in yellow) that was used to characterise the structures and to probe the optical properties of two plasmonic resonators (silver cubes) bridged by a layer of molecules with a length of 0.5 nm. [Image credit: TAN Shu Fen]