Australian National University develops tiny diamond transistor

The university anticipates that diamond transistor technology could be ready for large-scale fabrication within three to five years.

The Australian National University (ANU) has announced the invention of tiny diamond electronic parts it said has the potential to outperform devices currently in use.

Scientists from the university, alongside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel, have developed a new type of ultra-thin transistor. The team's diamond transistor is in the proof of concept stage, with lead researcher Dr Zongyou Yin anticipating that diamond transistor technology could be ready for large-scale fabrication within three to five years.

The team purchased special forms of tiny, flat diamonds and modified the surfaces so that they could grow ultra-thin materials on top to make the transistors, ANU explained, noting also the material they grew on the diamond consisted of a deposit of hydrogen atoms and layers of hydrogenated molybdenum oxide.

According to Yin, the new diamond transistors are promising for applications in spacecraft or car engines, touted as helping to reach the next frontier in space as they are more durable than today's devices in high-radiation environments.

"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," he said.

"Using diamond for these high-energy applications in spacecraft and car engines will be an exciting advancement in the science of these technologies."

Currently, such applications are currently dominated by semiconducting compounds-based technology, including silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), but Yin said they are limited by their performance in extremely high-power and hot environments.

The announcement from ANU follows the university earlier this week standing up a new innovation institute, InSpace, aimed at combining technology, science, and law research to advance Australia's space industry.

InSpace, according to ANU Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, will look to expand the opportunities for Australia to expand its commercial and scientific interests in the space industry.

"The new institute will be the front door to space activities and capabilities across the university, including technology R&D, science missions, space test facilities, commercial space law, and business and finance initiatives relating to space," Schmidt said.

"ANU has been Australia's leading astronomy institute for decades, and we're now looking to combine that scientific expertise with the work we're doing in physics, computing, quantum mechanics, and law."

Earlier this month, ANU announced the invention of a part-organic semiconductor by a team of engineers, touting the development as paving the way for bendable devices, such as mobile phones.

The thin and flexible semiconductor is comprised of both organic and inorganic materials that ANU said can convert electricity into light very efficiently.

ANU explained the organic component of the semiconductor has the thickness of just one atom and is made from just carbon and hydrogen. The inorganic component has the thickness of around two atoms.

The hybrid structure can convert electricity into light efficiently for displays on mobile phones, televisions, and other electronic devices, the university said.

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