Current-induced embrittlement of atomic wires

Tchavdar Todorov, J. Hoekstra, A.P. Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Recent experiments suggest that gold single-atom contacts and atomic chains break at applied voltages of 1 to 2 V. In order to understand why current flow affects these defect-free conductors, we have calculated the current-induced forces on atoms in a Au chain between two Au electrodes. These forces are not by themselves sufficient to rupture the chain. However, the current reduces the work to break the chain, which results in a dramatic increase in the probability of thermally activated spontaneous fracture of the chain. This current-induced embrittlement poses a fundamental limit to the current-carrying capacity of atomic wires.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3606-3609
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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