A crossbar latch, also called a molecular crossbar latch, is a nanoscale device with properties similar to those of a conventional silicon transistor, but physically much smaller, having a diameter of approximately 2 nanometers (nm, where 1 nm = 10-9 m). The crossbar latch is expected to find applicability in nanoscale computing. It may someday supplant the transistors currently found in computer chips. Because the crossbar latch is much smaller than any functional transistor, engineers hope that it will facilitate the construction of computers with much greater processing speed and power than exist today.
The device consists of three nanowires (extremely small wires) that cross at certain angles and that are separated by thin layers of stearic acid, a substance found in common soaps and lubricants. Pulses of current in one of the wires influence pulses of current in the other wires, making it possible to store data, perform logic operations, and amplify signals.
The technology was invented by Phillip J. Kuekes of Menlo Park, California, and he received a patent in July, 2003. Rights have been assigned to Hewlett-Packard (HP).