Invention and Development of the Atomic Switch
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Our invention of atomic switches with novel operating principles, using movement of atoms (ions) within solids, are serendipitous in a sense. In earlier study, we were trying to work on an experiment where atoms were arranged into lines in order to draw on a substrate by generating high electric field at an apex of a scanning tunneling microscope’s (STM) tip made of an electron and metal-ion mixed conductor material, and depositing metal atoms one by one from the tip. In doing so, without forethought, we found that by controlling the voltage applied to the STM tip, a protrusion at that apex, consisting of a small number of metallic atoms, could be reversibly grown and shrunk. We immediately came up with the idea of using these reversible processes for atomic-scale electrical switching. Thereafter, we have created the atomic switches, and found various unique physical properties such as quantized conductance, and valuable functions such as logic-gate operation in developed atomic switches.
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