Wired for Research – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Wired for Research

“Think of the first iPod released, remember how big and boxy it was?” asks Associate Professor of Chemistry Christine de Denus.  “Now compare that to the iPod shuffle, which is the size of your thumb and holds four gigabytes of music. Society today is demanding electronic devices that are smaller, cheaper, and have more memory.”

This summer, de Denus with students Adam Brooks ’12 and Kristen Kush ’12 are conducting research on the synthesis and characterization of novel molecular wire candidates that seeks to find a solution to this technological dilemma.

Brooks, a biochemistry major, is studying the constraints placed on technology. Electronics today rely heavily on the silicon chip, which is created by carving down a large piece of silicon into the small chips that are used in MP3 players and laptops. However, there are limits to how small a silicon chip can be produced.

“Creating molecular wires is a bottom-up technique. Instead of the top-down approach with silicon, you can build-up the wires with molecules,” says Brooks.  Using molecules one can synthetically control the creation of a wire that is much smaller than the existing silicon chip to conduct electricity, he explains. 

“Piece by piece, the molecules are added to create a chain known as a molecular wire,” explains Kush, a chemistry major. 

Due to the small size of the molecular wire candidates (25-35 nanometers in length), the ability to store more information in a small amount of space is possible. If the research finds that a molecular wire candidates can successfully send and retrieve information, it will mean that electronic devices can be produced in the miniature sizes that society demands. 

“We know how electrons behave and flow through the wire; theoretically, the candidates should work,” says de Denus.

This summer marks the 7th year of de Denus’ research in molecular wires and Brooks and Kush are two of many students to aid in the study. During her first year, Kush took a chemistry class taught by de Denus; so when the opportunity to research with her arose, Kush jumped at it.

Kush has discovered that she enjoys being in the lab, and hopes to have more opportunities to aid in research during her time at the Colleges. Brooks, an Elizabeth Blackwell scholar, will attend medical school after graduation and has found the world of research to be fun and exciting.

Both Teaching Fellows as well as TAs for labs, Brooks and Kush will accompany de Denus to present their research findings at the 240th American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition this August in Boston, Mass.