Diamond could help design tougher chips

August 5th, 2011 - 5:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 5 (IANS) Diamond or nano-diamond could well be the next material which will help scientists design new computer chips and electronic circuitry for extreme environments.

Electrical engineers at Vanderbilt University 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,” says Jimmy Davidson, professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt.

“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,” said Davidson, who led the study, reports the journal Electronics Letters.

The study has been co-authored by graduate student Nikkon Ghosh and professor of electrical engineering Weng Poo Kang, Davidson’s counterpart at Vanderbilt, according to a Vanderbilt statement.

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.

As a result, the cost of producing nano-diamond devices should be competitive with silicon. Potential applications include military electronics, circuitry that operates in space, ultra-high speed switches, ultra-low power applications, among others.

The nano-diamond circuits are a hybrid of old-fashioned vacuum tubes and modern solid-state microelectronics and combine some of the best qualities of both technologies.

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