Why you can trust us

Engadget has been testing and reviewing consumer tech since 2004. Our stories may include affiliate links; if you buy something through a link, we may earn a commission. Read more about how we evaluate products.

Researchers made the smallest diode using a DNA molecule

The study could lead to nanoscale electronic components and devices.

A team of researchers from the University of Georgia and Ben-Gurion University has developed an electronic component so tiny, you can't even see it under an ordinary microscope. See, the team used a single DNA molecule to create a diode, a component that conducts electricity mostly in one direction. Further, the DNA molecule they designed for the study only has 11 base pairs. That makes it a pretty short helix, considering a human genome has approximately 3 billion pairs.

To allow a current to flow through the DNA, the team inserted a molecule called "coralyne" into the helix. What the team came up with was a diode, because the current was 15 times stronger for negative voltages than for positive. The study's lead author Bingqian Xu decided to experiment on DNA to create minuscule components, since we can't exactly use silicon for parts that size.

He said:

"For 50 years, we have been able to place more and more computing power onto smaller and smaller chips, but we are now pushing the physical limits of silicon. If silicon-based chips become much smaller, their performance will become unstable and unpredictable."

Xu's and his team's efforts could eventually lead to more nanoscale electronics. Plus, the project could lead to more advanced devices, since scaling down components means engineers can cram more into regular-sized gadgets.