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Diamond is the new silicon

Summary:  

It seem that diamond the hardest known material on earth will soon becomes the most used element in electronic devices. Diamond can be used as a semiconductor, which is something not globally known.

For almost 60 years now, Silicon has been the crowned king for semiconductors industry. It all started in 1954 when the first Transistor was invented by Texas Instruments [1] .It enabled the avalanche of a great revolution in the electronics industry with minichips, microchips and IC’s.

Year by year scientists managed to produce smaller, cheaper, more functionalities and increased capacity of transistors by unit area, now as we approach the final barriers of progress where heat dissipation is becoming an imminent barrier , a major change is needed [2].

It seem that diamond the hardest known material on earth will soon becomes the most used element in electronic devices. Diamond can be used as a semiconductor, which is something not globally known.

It was by 1952 when scientists noticed that blue diamond shows semiconductors P-type conductivity behavior, due to the natural impurities inside it. Since this time it was proven that diamond could be used in electronic circuits manufacturing but the main barrier was the problem of manufacturing the diamond itself [3].

Naturally made diamond is produced when carbon buried in High Pressure/High Temperature (HP/HT) medium for hundreds of years but with the current technologies, such effects can be simulated to produce synthetic diamonds in the matter of months.

With the current advances and the usage of enhanced methods such as “Chemical Vapour Deposition” (CVD)[4], the manufacturing process of artificial diamonds is becoming much feasible, which in return opens the way for different diamond usage that wasn’t acceptable before due to the cost and uniqueness of each diamond piece.
As the manufacturing process of artificial diamonds becomes more economic and much faster, the financial barrier is becoming smaller on using diamonds in electronic applications.

Diamond has few properties that could make it very lucrative option such as:

1-      Its ability to disperse heat and conduct it 5 times faster than normal conductive/semi conductive materials.

2-      Has the highest density per atoms, which allows 1 cm of diamond to withstand 10 million EV.

3-      Extreme resistance against shock, pressure, radiation and even acid.

All of this could play an important role in high processing devices “i.e server farms”. A big problem arises with the increase demand on processing power is the heat barrier and the need for more power-hungry cooling systems however,  with diamond this problem is going to be minimized.

For long time the major diamond dealers considered the synthetic diamond as an enemy to their market share but now with the current technology advances, they decided to work by the motto saying, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”.

Recently, De Beers a huge multinational company in the field of natural diamond has decided to extend it’s business domain into the huge industry of computer chips by investing millions of dollars in starting a patner company named Element Six , that would specialize in manufacturing synthetic diamonds and exploring it’s potential usage in power microwave electronics industries [5].

Currently, research groups around the world are racing to produce the first diamond based commercial electronic devices “i.e. Diodes, Transistors and switches” [6][7].

For some time now, diamond have been used in high duty applications such as drilling heads in petroleum industry or in laser optics application and now is the time for making use of its near perfect electrical characteristics for another revolution in the electronics industry.

 

[1]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor

[2].http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/digital-diamonds-au.html

[3].http://www.semi1source.com/notes/viewfile.asp?Which=85

[4]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_vapor_deposition

[5]. http://www.investmentu.com/2011/December/synthetic-diamonds-to-replace-silicon-in-microchips.html

[6].http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmhxX4JI3Uw

[7].http://www.aist.go.jp/aist_e/latest_research/2005/20050615/20050615.html

 

Ahmed Sadek

Research Assistant at Nile University
Information Security Department
Ahmed.Sadek@nileu.edu.eg

 

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