The research is yet only a proof-of-concept, which shows that single-atom devices can be built and controlled. Lead scientist Martin Fuechsle said, "The thing that's unique about the work that we've done is that we have, with atomic precision, positioned this single atom within our device. This individual position (of a phosphorus atom in silicon) is really important ... because it turns out that if you want to have precise control at this level, you need to position individual atoms with atomic precision with respect to control gates and electrodes."
It's been predicted that transistors would have to reach the single-atom level by about 2020 in order to keep pace with Moore's Law, which which predicts that the number of transistors on a semiconductor doubles every 18 months.
Professor Michelle Simmons, group leader and director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) said, "So here we are in 2012 and we’ve made a single-atom transistor about 8-10 years ahead of where industry is going to be."
Watch an interview with the researchers, created by UNSW, below.