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Designing diamond circuits for extreme environments
Date:8/4/2011

There is a new way to design computer chips and electronic circuitry for extreme environments: make them out of diamond.

A team of electrical engineers at Vanderbilt University has developed all the basic components needed to create microelectronic devices out of thin films of nanodiamond. They have created diamond versions of transistors and, most recently, logical gates, which are a key element in computers.

"Diamond-based devices have the potential to operate at higher speeds and require less power than silicon-based devices," Research Professor of Electrical Engineering Jimmy Davidson said. "Diamond is the most inert material known, so our devices are largely immune to radiation damage and can operate at much higher temperatures than those made from silicon."

Their design of a logical gate is described in the Aug. 4 issue of the journal Electronics Letters. Co-authors of the paper are graduate student Nikkon Ghosh, Professor of Electrical Engineering Weng Poo Kang.

Not an engagement ring

Davidson was quick to point out that even though their design uses diamond film, it is not exorbitantly expensive. The devices are so small that about one billion of them can be fabricated from one carat of diamond. The films are made from hydrogen and methane using a method called chemical vapor deposition that is widely used in the microelectronics industry for other purposes. This deposited form of diamond is less than one-thousandth the cost of "jewelry" diamond, which has made it inexpensive enough so that companies are putting diamond coatings on tools, cookware and other industrial products. As a result, the cost of producing nanodiamond devices should be competitive with silicon.

Potential applications include military electronics, circuitry that operates in space, ultra-high speed switches, ultra-low power applications and sensors that operate in high radiation environments, at extremely high temperatures up to 900 d
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Contact: David Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
61-534-336-803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert  

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