Engineers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, stated that they created transistors and logical gates using nanodiamond films. The benefit? More performance potential, especially in extreme environments.
"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."
Davidson said that the devices are not "exorbitantly" expensive. Due to the size of transistors and gates, a one-carat diamond is enough to create about one billion of them. However, the diamond film is created from hydrogen and methane and the "deposited form of diamond is less than one-thousandth the cost of a jewelry diamond," the researchers said. The cost of producing nanodiamond devices may be competitive with silicon as a result, they stated. A Sandy Bridge die, by the way, has 995 million transistors.
The researchers envision their invention to be 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 up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit and extremely low temperatures down to minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to Davidson, nanodiamond devices can be manufactured by processes that are commonly used by the semiconductor industry with the exception that the production of the chip needs a vacuum, which requires a modified packaging process. Davidson and his colleagues said they have investigated the packaging process and have found that the metallic seals used in military-grade circuitry "are strong enough to hold an adequate vacuum for centuries."
There was no information when such chips could actually find their way into a production process.