Eureka! A single-atom transistor

Prof. Michelle Simmons (second right) leads the research team of Dr Floris Zwanenburg (left), Martin Fuechsle (second left) and Dr Suddhasatta Mahapatra (right) from the Centre for Quantum Computer Technology to develop the world's smallest transistor at the University of New South Wales in 2010.

Researchers in Australia said on Sunday they had made a working transistor consisting of a single atom, marking a big stride towards next-generation computing.

The device comprises a single phosphorus atom, etched into a silicon bed, with "gates" to control electrical flow and metallic contacts.

"Our group has proved that it is really possible to position one phosphorus atom in a silicon environment, exactly as we needed it, with near-atomic precision, and at the same time (incorporate) gates," said scientist Martin Fuechsle.

Transistors, which switch or amplify electrical flow, are the building blocks of computer chips.