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Wilfred van der Wiel

from Twente University gave a Nanoscience seminar on Wednesday. I vividly remember him as an outstanding PhD student, have not seen him for years and was delighted to see no significant change: in the position of full professor, he reminds sharp, handsome, nice and does outstanding research.

There were two topics. First one: Wilfred has investigated the conductance (well, if you can call inverse GigaOhm a conductance) of molecular wires thread in zeolyte crystal. The conductance could be changed by order of magnitude by tiny magnetic field in millitesla range. The mechanism of the effect must be related to nuclear spins and as such is the same as for the spin-blockade lifting in double quantum dots. The details remain unclear for me: yet the effect is there and is a record-strong.

The second topic has fascinated me even more. The physics was rather simple: Coulomb blockade in a pile of gold nanoparticles carelessly collected between a multitude of electrodes. A neat physical realization of complete and hopelessly incomprehensible mess. Yet it appears that that it is the mess that motivated the researcher. Wilfred managed to demonstrate that with the proper tuning (based on genetic algorithm) the pile can work as any of the logical gates! I reckon this work will have a big philosophical impact (seriously). It proves that electronic components can be made from anything (substitute “anything” with a stronger word if you like).

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