Diamond Becomes the New Material of Choice

Comments Off on Diamond Becomes the New Material of Choice
Diamond Becomes the New Material of Choice

Diamond is renowned for its hardness. It is the hardest material found in nature, and this unique property of diamond has been known for centuries. In fact, the word diamond is derived from the ancient Greek word adámas, meaning "unbreakable."

While this quality enhances the appeal of diamond jewelry because it is less fragile than other gemstones, the hardness of diamond is even more important to the material's role in manufacturing, where it is used for cutting, grinding, and polishing.

What is less widely known is that diamond has several other valuable properties that are equally or even more intriguing to manufacturers. Among all bulk materials, it has the highest thermal conductivity, conducting heat five times better than copper. It is also resistant to chemicals, radiation, and electrical fields.

All that has been lacking is the availability of complementary technologies that would unleash the massive potential of diamond to transform a variety of products. Now, however, those technologies are rapidly hurtling closer to reality.

Many of the new applications are based on creating thin films of diamonds that will allow manufacturers to make future electronics devices more powerful.

Studies performed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have yielded a new way to use these diamond thin films to dramatically improve the performance of integrated circuits.

For decades, engineers have sought to build more efficient electronic devices by reducing the size of their components. In the process of doing so, however, researchers have reached a "thermal bottleneck."

In a thermal bottleneck, the excess heat generated in the device causes undesirable consequences that affect its performance. According to Argonne nanoscientist Anirudha Sumant, "Unless we come up with innovative ways to suck the heat off of our electronics, we are pretty much stuck with this bottleneck."

The thermal properties of diamond thin films have led scientists to suggest using this material as a heat sink that could be integrated with a number of different semiconducting materials. However, the deposition temperatures for the diamond films typically exceed 800 degrees Celsius—roughly 1500 degrees Fahrenheit—that limits the feasibility of this approach.

As Sumant explains, "The name of the game is to produce diamond films at the lowest possible temperature. If I can grow the films at 400 degrees [Celsius], it makes it possible for me to integrate this material with a whole range of other semiconductor materials."

In a study reported in Nano Letters, Sumant and his colleagues at Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials used a new technique that altered the deposition process of the diamond films...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund