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James Heath – Caltech

James Heath is responsible for the most important work to date on molecular electronics.  His research group at the California Institute of Technology is focused primarily on nanotechnology applied to biotechnology and electronics.

With over 110 publications under his belt, Heath is recognized as the leader in molecular electronics development.  His biggest accomplishment was the creation of a molecular circuit.  He used molecules called rotaxanes to create molecular transistors.  His group reported in 2001 that they had successfully created a 16-bit memory circuit from rotaxane molecules that bridged semiconductor crossbars.  Heath even received a patent for 'Molecular wire crossbar memory' that could pave the way for more patents in the field of molecular electronic devices.   Within the patent, Heath detailed the use of crossbar molecular assemblies that could be used to build resistors, diodes, non-linear resistors, transistors, sensors, tunnel junctions, and many more unique molecular devices.

Clearly, his work has provided the tools and fundamental units that most researchers in molecular electronics use today.

Heath's group also works on other projects including biological nanosystems and some fundamental physics and chemistry problems at the nanoscale.

His nanosystems research branch focuses on creating biological sensors, electromechanical resonators, system-on-a-chip applications, and a variety of novel molecular devices for biotechnology applications.

Molecular electronics is the only real competitor of traditional semiconductor nanowire electronics built by Charles Lieber and Peidong Yang.  Heath's niche is unique in that his approach to nanoelectronics uses completely different building blocks that offer better self-assembly and mass-production capability.

Keep your eyes and ears on alert for more breakthroughs coming out of Heath's lab.  As researchers rush for a solution to the ideal nanoelectronic computing device, you can expect either Heath's or Lieber's groups to come up with the first working model.