Hybrid of old and new
The nanodiamond circuits are a hybrid of old fashioned vacuum tubes and modern solid-state microelectronics and combine some of the best qualities of both technologies. Nanodiamond devices consist of a thin film of nanodiamond that is laid down on a layer of silicon dioxide. Much as they do in vacuum tubes, the electrons move through vacuum between the nanodiamond components, instead of flowing through solid material the way they do in normal microelectronic devices. As a result, they require vacuum packaging to operate.
"The reason your laptop gets hot is because the electrons pumping through its transistors bump into the atoms in the semiconductor and heat them up," Davidson said. "Because our devices use electron transport in vacuum they don't produce nearly as much heat."
This transmission efficiency is also one reason why the new devices can run on very small amounts of electrical current. Another is that diamond is the best electron emitter in the world so it doesn't take much energy to produce strong electron beams. "We think we can make devices that use one tenth the power of the most efficient silicon devices," said Davidson.
The design is also largely immune to radiation damage. Radiation disrupts the operation of transistors by inducing unwanted charge in the silicon, causing an effect like tripping the circuit breaker in your home. In the nanodiamond device, on the other hand, the electrons flow through vacuum so there is nothing for energetic particles to disrupt. If the particles strike the nanodiamond anode or cathode, the impact is limited to a small fluctuation in the electron flow, not complete disruption, as is the case with silicon devices.
"When I read about the problems at the Fukushima power plant after the Japanese tsunami, I realized that nanodiamond circuits would be perfect for failsafe circu
|Contact: David Salisbury|