Nanodiamond devices to rival silicon?

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A team of researchers at Vanderbilt University has successfully created diamond versions of transistors and logical gates, which they claim use one tenth of the power of the most efficient silicon devices.

"Diamond based devices have the potential to operate at higher speeds and require less power than silicon based ones," said Research Professor of Electrical Engineering, Jimmy Davidson. "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." Davidson maintained that although the devices make use of diamond film, they are not overly expensive to produce. "The devices are so small that about one billion of them can be fabricated from one carat of diamond," he noted. "The cost of producing them should be competitive with silicon." To create the films, the researchers used a hybrid of old fashioned vacuum tubes and modern solid state microelectronics. The films were made from hydrogen and methane using a method called chemical vapour deposition. "The nanodiamond devices consist of a thin film of nanodiamond that is laid down on a layer of silicon dioxide," explained Prof Davidson. "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." Davidson sees the new material being used in 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. The nanodiamond devices are said to be operable at up to 900°F and down to -300°F.