A new type of ultra-thin transistor made from diamond could improve the efficiency of rocket engines in high-radiation environments, its inventors claim.
Using diamonds to create two-dimensional semi-conductors is a hot topic in the electronics field, because of their inherent physical, electronic and thermal properties. However, finding a suitable additional material with which to control the “doping”, or manipulation of conductivity, essential to their operation has proved to be a challenge.
A class of materials known as transition-metal oxides (TMO) is currently the subject of widespread research. However, many of these, such as molybdenum trioxide, function poorly at high temperatures or are overly sensitive to the stress of manufacture.
Now a team led by Zongyou Yin of the Australian National University has succeeded in solving these problems by incorporating hydrogen bonds into molybdenum trioxide to create “a smooth, uniform, and ultrastable TMO”.
The result – thus far at proof-of-concept stage – is a class of diamond transistors that is extremely durable, and theoretically able to survive both hot and 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,” says Yin.
With consumer electronics, as well as aerospace, enjoying a sustained uptick in demand, the new semi-conductor could find an immediate and large market.
“We anticipate that we could have diamond transistor technology ready for large-scale fabrication within three to five years, which would set the base for further commercial market development,” explains Yin.
In a paper published in the journal Science Advances he and colleagues note that such development “should expand to other fields where TMOs are playing an increasing role such as optoelectronics, photonics, photovoltaics, photocatalysis, and sensing”.
Andrew Masterson is a former editor of Cosmos.
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