According to Dr. Albert Stolow, the project leader, there is a world wide effort in the development of increasingly smaller devices for information and telecommunications technology. "Such devices will soon be so small that they begin to approach the size of molecules. As such, the molecular way of thinking becomes increasingly profitable," said Dr. Stolow. The burgeoning field of "molecular electronics" considers molecules themselves as electronic devices and, using fundamental physical principles, tries to lay the foundation for the next generation of devices.
Femtosecond time scale processes underlie many of the phenomena we see around us in the natural world. Vision and photosynthesis are interesting cases because they are both biological systems and paradigms for molecular electronics. In both these cases, a complex mixing of atomic and electronic motions is critical to the function.
"We will seldom be interested only in the static properties of molecular systems. We want to know how they change as a function of time, in other words, their dynamics," said Dr. Stolow. "The design of active molecular scale devices must include consideration of these dynamics process. Another critical issue in molecular systems is long term stability. Excited molecules have many undesired paths they can follow. The design of stable, efficient devices requires the rates of decay (e.g. breaking) to be much slower than the rate of the desired process (e.g. switching). We expect that fundamental studies will shed new light onto complex chemical and biological processes as well as open new avenues for the rational design of molecular devices."