Noise is low-frequency random fluctuation that occurs in many systems, including electronics, environments, and organisms. Noise can obscure signals, so it is often removed from electronics and radio transmissions. The origin of noise in nanoscale electronics is currently of much interest, and devices that operate using noise have been proposed. Materials with a high surface-to-volume ratio are attractive for studying the noise produced by nanoscale electronics because they are very sensitive to changes of their surfaces. A representative material of this type is carbon nanotubes, which are rolled sheets of the graphene hexagonal network, which is only one carbon atom thick.
A Japanese collaboration led by Osaka University has explored the ability of single molecules to affect the noise generated by carbon nanotube-based nanoscale electronic devices. The team fabricated simple devices consisting of a carbon nanotube bridging two electrodes. The devices were exposed to different large molecules, causing some to bind to the carbon nanotube surface. It was found that different molecules gave unique noise signals related to the properties of the molecules. The strength of the interaction between the carbon nanotubes and molecules was able to be predicted from the obtained noise signals.