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Man-Made Diamonds

The hardest substance on earth could also be the answer to flexible electronics that last longer and deliver more power.

In addition to traditionally being a girls’ best friend, it looks like diamonds might also be the BFF for anyone looking to develop more powerful, longer-lasting, more energy efficient electronics.

Adam Khan, founder of Akhan Semiconductor, has found a cost-effective way to impose diamond wafers on to the most essential component of an electrical circuit board – the semiconductor. So although silicon currently dominates the $327 billion semiconductor field, the use of diamonds could offer a number of benefits leading to new applications.

First, diamonds are capable of operating at much hotter temperatures than silicon or most metals – so devices with diamond semiconductors would need fewer components to control that heat, decreasing their overall footprint.

Diamonds also handle higher electrical outputs better than other semiconductor materials, so they can produce more power more efficiently. And because these diamond-based components are more efficient, they last longer and are capable of generating more power.

The most surprising element of these new semiconductors is the cost. Okay, so it’s time to come clean. These aren’t the diamonds you’d use to secure a soulmate or beg forgiveness. Rather, they’re man-made and manufactured with methane, which obviously keeps costs much lower than their jewelry store-housed siblings.

To produce them, Akhan uses microwaves to heat a reactor filled with hydrogen, argon and methane. Once the methane reaches a plasma state, the thin diamond wafer needed to produce the semiconductor is created.

In addition to these other performance benefits, the next step could be translucent diamond semiconductor-based devices capable of bending up to 45 degrees in any direction. In addition to the challenges of breaking from silicon-laden tradition is the fact that even though these diamonds are man-made, they’re still more expensive than silcon

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