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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 20;109(47):19097-102. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208699109. Epub 2012 Nov 5.

Conductivity of an atomically defined metallic interface.

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Department of Physics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A2T8.


A mechanically formed electrical nanocontact between gold and tungsten is a prototypical junction between metals with dissimilar electronic structure. Through atomically characterized nanoindentation experiments and first-principles quantum transport calculations, we find that the ballistic conduction across this intermetallic interface is drastically reduced because of the fundamental mismatch between s wave-like modes of electron conduction in the gold and d wave-like modes in the tungsten. The mechanical formation of the junction introduces defects and disorder, which act as an additional source of conduction losses and increase junction resistance by up to an order of magnitude. These findings apply to nanoelectronics and semiconductor device design. The technique that we use is very broadly applicable to molecular electronics, nanoscale contact mechanics, and scanning tunneling microscopy.

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