The Fastest Counter of the Smallest Beans

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Science  22 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5367, pp. 1193
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5367.1193a

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Single-electron transistors (SETs), transistors so small that they deal in individual electrons, could serve as the most sensitive and accurate detectors of electrical current around, but so far, investigators have lacked an amplifier fast enough to capture the rapid-fire signals from the transistor. Now, on page 1238, a team of U.S. and Swedish researchers describes a new SET architecture that includes an amplifier capable of recording the passage of electrons 1000 times faster than the previous record holder and about 1 million times faster than conventional SETs, which is likely to be fast enough to register individual charges in a current.