Tiny diamond transistors could be used in spacecraft
Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU), collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, have developed a new type of ultrathin transistor made of diamond, with the ability to outperform and be more durable than current devices deployed in high-radiation environments such as rocket engines.
“Diamond is the perfect material to use in transistors that need to withstand cosmic ray bombardment in space or extreme heat within a car engine, in terms of performance and durability,” said lead researcher Dr Zongyou Yin, currently based at the ANU Research School of Chemistry.
Dr Yin said such applications are currently dominated by semiconducting compounds-based technologies, including silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), but these “are limited by their performance in extremely high-power and hot environments, such as in spacecraft or car engines”.
“Diamond, by contrast to silicon carbide and gallium nitride, is a far superior material to use in transistors for these kinds of purposes,” Dr Yin said.
“Using diamond for these high-energy applications in spacecraft and car engines will be an exciting advancement in the science of these technologies.”
The team purchased special forms of tiny, flat diamonds and modified the surfaces so that they could grow ultrathin materials on top to make the transistors. The material they grew consisted of a deposit of hydrogen atoms and layers of hydrogenated molybdenum oxide.
The diamond transistor is currently in the proof-of-concept stage, with the study results published in the journal Science Advances. Dr Yin anticipates that the technology could be ready for large-scale fabrication within three to five years, which would set the base for further commercial market development.
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