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Making Microelectronics Out of Nanodiamond

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the nanodiamond-age dept.

Hardware 80

Science_afficionado writes "Electrical engineers at Vanderbilt have created the basic components for computer chips out of thin films of nanodiamond. These combine the properties of vacuum tubes and solid state microelectronics and can operate in extreme environments where normal devices fail."

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FUCK !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016410)

Am I first ??

Re:FUCK !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016584)

Oh yes.
Oh yeah.
That sounds good! A giant cum fiesta is taking place right inside your ass!

Re:FUCK !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016696)

hahahahahahaha cum fiesta!

Re:FUCK !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37019810)

Samefaggotry

Diamond Age (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016412)

So are we approaching diamond age now?

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016446)

Easy on the vodka there, kremlin.

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016694)

Awesome question as it is possible to recreate digital logic without silicon, using only analog components (in fact, that's what vacuum tubes were, sort of). We are now in the "digital age", but i'm not sure if the substrate matters as much as the impact it has on every day lives. Though "diamond age" is really sexy and seems like it would represent the new marriage of social lives, work, and electronics. It might catch on, it might not, depends on what marketing droids think.

Re:Diamond Age (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016758)

Awesome question as it is possible to recreate digital logic without silicon, using only analog components (in fact, that's what vacuum tubes were, sort of). We are now in the "digital age", but i'm not sure if the substrate matters as much as the impact it has on every day lives. Though "diamond age" is really sexy and seems like it would represent the new marriage of social lives, work, and electronics. It might catch on, it might not, depends on what marketing droids think.

Silicon made all the difference because no one was going to ever carry a vacuum tube radio in their pocket. Nor would they carry a computerized pacemaker with vacuum tubes in their chest. Transister Radios were the bee's knees back in the day. If diamonds make microelectronics work well enough that we can get in-eye HUDs or disease-fighting nanites, then there might be a big enough shift to proclaim a new "diamond" age.

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017058)

Transistor, dummy. Jeez leweeze! If you can't even spell that you may as well become a republican, born again, nazi.

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017438)

Yeah, but I can spell transvestite from transexual transylvania. Cuz I can, that's why.

Re:Diamond Age (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017224)

You and the GP are both misunderstanding "digital" and "analog". The first digital computers used vaccuum tubes; the first digital computer was patented in 1946. The first useable transistor was made in 1954 (wikipedia article on transistors). [wikipedia.org]

"Digital" usually refers to computers using the binary number system, while analog refers to circuits using an analogy; a potentiometer is an analog component. Transistor radios were analog circuits, and in the 1960s there were analog computers using transistors. In fact, you can construct an analog computer using nothing but a battery, two potentiometers, and an analog voltmeter, although it's really more of an electric slide rule than a computer. But there were sophisticated analog computers that would actually use fractions rather than binary math which output to a CRT (CRTs are tubes, too).

Tubes and transistors both serve pretty much the same purpose. The biggest difference (aside from size) is transistors can handle physical shock without harm, while tubes can handle high temperatures and voltages without harm. Tubes break, overheat or electrically overload a transistor and it will "break".

You can fit a building full of vacuum tube circuits in a single integrated circuit. That computer on your desk would take acres, even square miles, of vacuum tubes to perform the same function.

Nanotech promises even smaller scales. This diamond tech sounds like it could provide the benefits of both tubes and transistors (which work completely different from each other).

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017380)

"The biggest difference (aside from size) is transistors can handle physical shock without harm"

Hmmm, better tell the folks that made radio proximity fuzes in WORLD WAR II. However did they make fuzes that withstood 20000g acceleration and 20000RPMs with vacuum tubes!?

http://www.war44.com/showthread.php?t=499&page=1 [war44.com]

Yes, in case you don't get it, I'm talking about stuffing basically a proximity sensor inside the nose cone of an artillery shell.

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017476)

You and the GP are both misunderstanding "digital" and "analog".

What? I was talking about the leap in tech provided by using transistors instead of tubes; ie computers and other electronics became portable. Thus, diamond based nano-stuff might be enough to make people refer to the next tech age as the diamond age. Ne'er did I mention analog.

Re:Diamond Age (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#37018394)

For that matter you can construct a digital computer out of jujubes and matchboxes. Following a Scientific American article I once built one that was base three, and could learn to play flawless tic-tac-toe.

Of course, it was also analog, as every computer it when it interfaces with the human sensoria. You don't really see the picture of a penguin on the screen. You see an analogy-image built out of colored pixels. The jujube computer, requiring a lot more in-depth interaction by the user, had that kind of analogy deeply embedded in it. And it was specialized...it could only learn a game that was played on the tic-tac-toe board, and only involved making one indelible mark on the board at each turn, and where the game was turn oriented, and there was one other opponent...probably a few more restrictions. Some, involving symmetry, were just there so that the number of matchboxes (and jujubes) could be reduced.

So. The line between analog and digital isn't that clearly drawn. But the memory of the computer was digital base three. (Each matchbox started off with equal numbers of three colors of jujube. A color was drawn at random, and each color corresponded to a move. If it won the game, you returned the jujubes to the matchbox. Otherwise you ate them (or otherwise removed them from play). (I may be misremembering. It might have been base four. One color per possible move, anyway.)

But it was digital because the memory was stored as discrete items, and it was analog because it was constructed in analogy to a game like tic-tac-toe. (Not necessarily the same game, mind you. There were some different games that it could learn, but they were all quite similar to tic-tac-toe. And it could only learn one.)

Re:Diamond Age (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017954)

In the late 50's I had a portable radio -- overcoat pocket sized. Four subminiature tubes. Used a C cell and a 45 volt B battery. Before transistors took over, there were remarkable advances in "empty state" electronics. Now get off my lawn!

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37019502)

Awesome question as it is possible to recreate digital logic without silicon, using only analog components (in fact, that's what vacuum tubes were, sort of). We are now in the "digital age", but i'm not sure if the substrate matters as much as the impact it has on every day lives. Though "diamond age" is really sexy and seems like it would represent the new marriage of social lives, work, and electronics. It might catch on, it might not, depends on what marketing droids think.

Silicon made all the difference because no one was going to ever carry a vacuum tube radio in their pocket. Nor would they carry a computerized pacemaker with vacuum tubes in their chest.

Tony Stark would like to have a word with you.

(And yes, pedants, it's not exactly a vacuum tube. It's a joke; if that slight truth-bending to make it fit makes it non-funny, too bad for you. )

Re:Diamond Age (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016722)

If we are, whoever has done it isn't talking.

None of this is nanotechnology as the term was envisioned, though it may be nanoscale.

Re:Diamond Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017478)

Actually it's Stone Age. The Flintstones had it right, using rocks for brains.

Re:Diamond Age (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#37020036)

Since silicon is the main element in stone, we are already in the stone age in a way.

Re:Diamond Age (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026030)

By weight (or by number of atoms), oxygen is more abundant in rock than silicon. FYI.

Hey Baby, (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016428)

Don't turn the ring down. All the best electronics are made out of diamonds this size.

Size matters (1, Troll)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016466)

Each individual feature is just too big. You're looking at individual transistors 20x or more larger than what we have today on silicon. Faster and lower power, maybe, until you try and build a working CPU from them and discover you need a die 3cm x 3cm. Niche products only.

Re:Size matters (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016494)

The first semiconductor transistors were large enough to handle a single one with your hand. What makes you assume that the nanodiamond transistors cannot get smaller?

Re:Size matters (5, Informative)

slew (2918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017300)

The first semiconductor transistors were large enough to handle a single one with your hand. What makes you assume that the nanodiamond transistors cannot get smaller?

There are unfortuantly some additional physics problems that need to be address for miniturization of this technology.

One issue is the free-space electron transport. With silicon technology, the "channel" is doped silicon which carried the electrons (like a wire). The channel sort of acts like a waveguide for the electrons as the travel between the source and the drain (assuming common mos technology). In "free-space" transport between the cathode and anode (vacuum tube and the proposed nano-diamond transistor), you need to keep some sort of physical separation (in an all-free-space design) or some sort of electrical isolation betweeen devices (shielding).

The second issue is the structure. In the proposed diamond design, the diamond "circuitry" is patterned so that it is essentially carved to have structures above the silicon dioxide surface (as opposed to standard patterning which is either directly on the surface ion implated into the substrate). This nano-tech like structure will of course need to scale to get better. If they can take anything from the current silicon technology, shrinking in 2D (patterning) is much easier than shrinking in 3D (needed for reduced gate thickness needed to improve gate channel efficiency). In advanced silicon technology, 3D scaling has be all but abandoned in favor of techniques like tri-gate/fin-fet...

Note that I'm not saying these advances aren't possible, but they do not leverage any current manufacturing techniques, so it's likely that this stuff will be in the lab for a while whilst current technology will advance. When it does become feasible, it may or may not be competitive. This is not unlike ferro-magnetic ram might replace dram someday, or how solid state memories will replace rotating disk memory someday... Maybe someday, but it's equally possible that day may also never come or be so far out that other new technologies may gain a foothold (e.g., how RRAM might actual displace FRAM as the DRAM successor)...

As a silly example, if you invested the same amount of "area" in some farady-cage-like shielding of present day CML (current-mode-logic) technology electronics, would this nano-diamond technology be much better? I dunno, but these new-fangled technologies need to beat these kind of tweaks of current day technology to win. But of course we have to both try to do new things and try to improve old things and see which one comes out on top. However to assume that the appropriate technological and manufacturing advances will necessarily come to pass to make a general approach viable would be a mistake as a heap load of abandoned technologies will certainly attest to...

Re:Size matters (0)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#37018042)

tl;dr version: this future technology can't use today's manufacturing techniques so it's not yet ready to go mainstream. And we don't yet know if the future technology will beat out the future version of today's technology.

In other words, just like every other promising future technology out there... at least until it does become mainstream, or falls by the wayside because of impracticalities.

Re:Size matters (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#37019690)

..actually, the article states that this technology could be manufactured with current machinery, just modified to do so in a vacuum.

Re:Size matters (0)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#37020310)

I was tl;dr'ing the (GP) comment - and in that also attempting to point out its negative/pessimistic mindset.

Re:Size matters (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37019504)

Of course, leakage currents are a big problem for silicon transistors as well, and with current technology we are already quite close to the limits of silicon transistors. Of course there's new developments going on for silicon as well, and it's a given that we can't know which future technology will win out.

Also, the article mentions that the diamond transistors are faster; unfortunately I couldn't find how much faster. However, given that modern processors use the miniaturization mainly to cram more cores on the chip, the faster speed might well offset the larger size. If, say, the speed is a factor 8, then a single-core processor made of diamond transistors will outperform an 8-core processor of silicon transistors for anything which is not perfectly parallelizable, and will be on par for perfectly parallelizable programs. Also given that the diamond transistor is put in silicon oxide, I guess it's possible to combine diamond and silicon transistors in a single chip, so e.g. the processor cache could be silicon (you want to have as much as possible, which demands small transistors), while the actual computing cores could be diamond (because less faster cores are better than more slower cores).

Moreover there are applications where the lower energy consumption is more important that high performance. Imagine a laptop with 40 hours battery lifetime!

Re:Size matters (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016892)

Each individual feature is just too big. You're looking at individual transistors 20x or more larger than what we have today on silicon. Faster and lower power, maybe, until you try and build a working CPU from them and discover you need a die 3cm x 3cm. Niche products only.

Here is the clincher:

The nanodiamond circuits are a hybrid of old fashioned vacuum tubes and modern solid-state microelectronics and combine some of the best qualities of both technologies

Just as soon as the audiophile industry hears about this they'll go batshit insane. Something that is 1) new 2) expensive 3) combines tubes and anything else will be simply irresistible to them. Bonus points for diamond covered wooden knobs.

Re:Size matters (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017292)

Just as soon as the audiophile industry hears about this they'll go batshit insane. Something that is 1) new 2) expensive 3) combines tubes and anything else will be simply irresistible to them.

I know, you jest, but judging from TFA they're only talking about the diamond transistors being able to withstand heat like tubes do.

Musicians use tube amps because tubes overload differently than transistors; the wave distortion is different. Overload a transistor or a tube with a sine wave and both will produce a square wave, but the tube's "square wave" will have rounded corners while the a transistor will have the top chopped off cleanly, making it more like a true square wave.

However, you're right about one thing -- audiophiles are gullible.

Re:Size matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017576)

I seem to remember tube amplifiers had a faster slew rate too, meaning the level could change faster. Transistors can switch faster, but music amplification is not about how fast you can switch but how correctly your output changes (slews) in relation to your input.

Re:Size matters (1)

Skweetis (46377) | more than 3 years ago | (#37023638)

Transistor amplifiers typically have a much faster slew rate than tubes. The slowness of tube amplifiers is mostly related to the rectification stage, though -- in older amps, a diode tube such as a 5AR4 or 5U4 is used, which can have a slew rate of 100 ms or more under some circumstances. Newer tube amplifiers typically, though not always, have solid-state rectification (usually 1N4007 diodes in a bridge configuration), which slew much faster.

Another characteristic of tube amplifiers that is of interest to musicians is harmonic content. Where a transistor amplifier simply takes an input sine wave and outputs an amplified version of the same wave, a tube amplifier will output dozens of harmonic waves as well. A "clean" sounding tube amp likely outputs a signal with 10 to 15% THD. A single-ended amplifier (one in which one or more output tubes simply increase the power of a signal) will tend to emphasize even-order harmonics (even-numbered multiples of the input frequency). An amplifier in a push-pull configuration (one in which two or more output tubes are paired, with each member of a pair amplifying one half of the input waveform) will tend to cancel even-order harmonics and emphasize odd-order harmonics (odd-numbered multiples of the input frequency).

A couple of weeks ago, I worked on a modern tube amp which was designed to allow flexibility in all of these areas. It had multiple stages which could each be overdriven separately or together for different overload characteristics, rectification switchable between tube and solid-state, and an output stage switchable between push-pull and single-ended. It even had multiple bias/plate voltage presets to allow use of multiple tube types in the output stage. Complicated, but kind of cool, too.

And the grandparent is correct regarding the gullibility of audiophiles. Anyone who would spend $60/foot on "premium speaker cable", when dollar-store lamp cord will conduct the same voltages and frequencies in an identical fashion should probably have their picture posted next to 'gullible' in the dictionary. =P

Re:Size matters (2)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017100)

The extreme temperatures/radiation niche is a real and valuable one, particularly as these devices will cost a fortune at first.

Also, the 8-bit CPUs of thirty years ago should be quite feasible. From there, we'll see what can be squeezed out of physics ...

Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016474)

Making picoelectronics out of femtodiamonds.

Re:Next step (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016516)

A femtodiamond must be a single carbon nucleus. I wonder how you distinguish femtodiamonds from femtographite, though.

Re:Next step (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016754)

I wonder how you distinguish femtodiamonds from femtographite, though.

A really tiny jeweller's loupe?

Re:Next step (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#37019712)

Actually, wouldn't it be a really, really huge loupe? For lots of magnification?

Re:Next step (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016936)

A femtodiamond must be a single carbon nucleus. I wonder how you distinguish femtodiamonds from femtographite, though.

Well, easy, one shines and the other doesn't... Oh wait...

Actually, a femtodiamond is CH4 a femtographite is Benzene. ;)

Re:Next step (3, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017346)

Shine on, you crazy benzine?

(Damn, if that ain't a nerd joke I don't know what is)

Re:Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37019602)

You mean shine on you crazy methane

Limited uses? (2)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016506)

"Potential applications include 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."

Why not use this design for consumer products? All the way around it's a better design. I'd cough up a few bucks more for this chip.

Re:Limited uses? (1)

CurryCamel (2265886) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016676)

Read the fine print on the images that give the scale of the "electronics". The transistor seems to be in the mm-range. Perhaps with time, the process might shrink.

Anyways, if you are ready to pay extra then - almost by definition - you are not looking for "consumer products" :)

Re:Limited uses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016790)

Read the fine print on the images that give the scale of the "electronics". The transistor seems to be in the mm-range.
Perhaps with time, the process might shrink.

Anyways, if you are ready to pay extra then - almost by definition - you are not looking for "consumer products" :)

You realize that the first working transistor at Bell Labs was about the size of a modern car battery, right? Yet, here we are almost ~70 years later and we have shrunk them down to the nanometer scale.

If these diamond ones are starting in the millimeter range, then my guess is that "miniaturization" of them down to the nanometer range will happen much more rapidly than ~70 years.

Re:Limited uses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017546)

"You realize that the first working transistor at Bell Labs was about the size of a modern car battery, right? "

What kind of drugs are you on, and where can I get some? Wait, I don't want to turn into a drooling functional retard, so never mind. How hard is it to check something before making a complete ass of yourself?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Replica-of-first-transistor.jpg [wikimedia.org]

The wiggly thing is a PAPERCLIP. Kill yourself, NOW.

Re:Limited uses? (0)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016998)

It will shrink

Re:Limited uses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016682)

Cost, especially to retool existing fabrication. Also, the De Beers family interferes with all synthetic diamond production to protect their diamand mines, so the price has remained unreasonably and unnecessarily high. The function of their "Element Six" corporation is not to improve diamond synthes, but to manage it and control it to the advantage of their core diamond mining assets. Do not expect easy diamond synthesis to become wideplace until the De Beers cartel is finally broken.

Re:Limited uses? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016900)

You can get them here [diamondnexuslabs.com] .

De Beers doesn't have as much power as some people think. There is resistance to synthetic diamonds in common jewelry stores because a cheaper diamond doesn't give them as much profit off the markup as a more expensive diamond.

Re:Limited uses? (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 3 years ago | (#37018574)

As I read it, those are not real diamonds, they are "diamond simulants". The fact that they contain C, S, Fe, Ca, Co, Ni, Y, Zr, Gd, and Hf, suggests that they are not diamonds. That they coat them with corundum to "increase the hardness" is another clue that these are not real diamonds.

There are synthetic diamonds out there, but I'm not sure how low the prices are. The two companies I know of are Gemesis and Apollo Diamond (their web site is quite dated).

Re:Limited uses? (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017336)

How cute. You actually think they'd use gemstones for something like this.

Industrial diamonds are *cheap*. A quarter (yes, $0.25) will buy you several grams of industrial diamonds. Don't expect sparkle sparkle from them, but for anything that needs the hardness, like say a diamond-tipped drill bit or saw blade, they're quite adequate. For something like a transistor, they need the chemical properties of a diamond, not the optical properties.

Re:Limited uses? (0)

eqisow (877574) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016712)

Because I'm sure there will be a sizable size/speed trade-off, at least to begin with.

Re:Limited uses? (0)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37018834)

Why not use this design for consumer products? All the way around it's a better design. I'd cough up a few bucks more for this chip.

Consumer products needs holy smoke to operate (otherwise how would one tell the chip is broken?). This one... needs vacuum to operate.

Re:Limited uses? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#37019724)

As soon as Nvidia hears about this, they'll probably buy the technology -- and market their GPUs to Eskimos with the selling point that they double as space-heaters.

Logic Diamonds??? (1)

linuxwonder (1681928) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016524)

Did they watch Eureka a couple of seasons ago...They had a thing called a "Logic Diamond"

Re:Logic Diamonds??? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016604)

I prefer the Time Cube.

Re:Logic Diamonds??? (3, Funny)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016918)

The funniest thing about the Time Cube guy is he's actually 100% correct, there are four days in each day. In fact, there are 24 (timezones) 'days' on the earth in each day. To be more precise, there are an infinite number of days in each rotation of the earth, depending on where you start.

I've always wanted someone to saw off the corners of one of those cubes, so it has eight sides, and send it to the guy. See how it blows his mind. Time Octagon.

Re:Logic Diamonds??? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017024)

I guess I have been educated stupid or a big dumby

Re:Logic Diamonds??? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37021498)

"OMG, it's like a double time cube, all the way! WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!? T_T"

operate in extreme environments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37016834)

dose this mean i have to buy a new tough book?

that's easy (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016878)

that's easy stuff, they should try the other way around: nanoelectronics out of microdiamonds.

The real problem is that there are no P devices (2)

phage434 (824439) | more than 3 years ago | (#37016934)

You can't make vacuum devices with holes, so there are not the complementary devices needed for CMOS like operation. We would be working with a technology similar to N-channel FETs, with all the problems of low-output state power dissipation. It won't scale to high integration levels. That said, the technology probably has niche applications in high temperature and rad-hard environments.

Don't get too excited (5, Informative)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017156)

I did research on this stuff back in the 1990s. Made the films, did the vacuum chambers, had the world record for emission efficiency for a while. While it may have some niche applications, the basic problem is that it is *not* a low-voltage technology. Modern chips operate on 1.5 V or so; Diamond devices will be more like 5V. So ultra-low power? Nope. They say that the devices are more efficient because the electrons don't bump their way through the silicon crystal lattice. While that's true enough, it doesn't actually make a big difference. Why? Because the electrons very much will dump all their energy when they leave the vacuum and hit the anode.

Ultra-high speed? Again, while vacuum is nice in that it doesn't slow down the electrons, that turns out not to be a big effect. The most important factor in speed is the size of the device, and there is certainly no reason to believe that these vacuum tubes will be smaller than transistors, if built with the same lithography tools. I may be wrong, but I have good reasons to believe that they will be harder to make small.

High temperature? Radiation resistance? Maybe, but that turns out to be a complex question. These devices aren't just diamond and vacuum. They involve insulating layers, too, and those insulators may be affected my high temperatures or radiation. Essentially, a device is as robust as its weakest link, so until you can make the entire device out of truly robust materials, you won't gain too much.

So, it's nice work. I know how hard it is to do this stuff. And, it might be useful eventually. But it won't revolutionize technology any time soon. And, those guys ought to realize that, if they would let themselves. Research lives off publicity these days, because it is being forced to become more and more of a competition between groups. The trouble is, when competition enters and your salary depends on the claims you can make, truth tends to be (shall we say) over-inflated.

That darn free market ideology messes up science. I like it as much as anything for people who make spoons or telephones. But science isn't making spoons. If you get a bad spoon, you'll know it, but if you read an exaggerated research paper, how can you tell, other than by doing the research again? And, that's just not efficient: doing it wrong and then doing it again isn't nearly as good as doing it right the first time.

Oh well. Enough ranting.

Re:Don't get too excited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37020100)

Can it be used to make an audio amplifier? A diamond-based technology that combines the best properties of vacuum tubes and solid state sounds like an audiophile wet dream, and you can name your price in that market.

Re:Don't get too excited (1)

ssyladin (458003) | more than 3 years ago | (#37023594)

I'll second this. I actually took classes from Dr. Davidson (lead researcher) over a decade ago, and he was shooting for the same goal back then. The approach seems to have changed - using CVD now instead of cut, polished, and etched diamond crystal (just like silicone) - but it doesn't sound like they're any closer to having solved some of the more practical or marketable problems outlined above.

Re:Don't get too excited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37024788)

Also, there is no such thing as a P-channel vacuum tube, so there is no CMOS version of tubes, so there is no low-power logic.
These might be most useful as microwave power amplifiers.

Efficient and heat resistant, nice combo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37017238)

They claim those are 10 times more efficient than silicon ones and heat resistant up to 500 degrees Celsius. So they could handle insane frequencies, before even needed to be cooled.

Can't suck it up (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017260)

I have a feeling the vacuum requirement is going to be a bigger problem than the article implies. It is not just a matter of manufacturing the device in a vacuum, it is keeping the materials from sublimating due to a dissociation constant of the hydrogen embedded in the substrate. The amount would be microscopic, but that is a lot when you are taking nanoscale. And gas would not need to flood the device, just a small amount could render it unreliable, depending upon the application. I'm sure some would suggest fault tolerant design, as is typical in current chip processes. That might do it, but I doubt if the legacy methods would easily port to the new paradigm. This is not to say it will not happen, just that the smallest of things tend to delay commercialization the most.

EMP resistant? (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017326)

I'm wondering how resistant to EMP electronics made out of this would be.

Nanodiamond is Carbon is Graphine? (1)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37017904)

So how is "nanodiamond" material different from graphine?

G.

Re:Nanodiamond is Carbon is Graphine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37018312)

I am not a geologist, but I recon the difference is in the crystal structure. Diamond is 3D, graphine is 2D.

Re:Nanodiamond is Carbon is Graphine? (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | more than 3 years ago | (#37018522)

Nanodiamond is basically polycrystalline diamond whose individual crystallites are, say, ~10 to 100 nanometers in size. It's still tetrahedrally-bonded carbon (the sp3 carbon bond that defines crystalline diamond) with some non-sp3 stuff (sp2, amorphous C, etc.) in the grain boundaries.

Graphene is single-layer sp2 bonded carbon, think of it as a single layer of graphite. Flat, chicken-wire skeleton, with the same type of bonding you find in pencil lead or other forms of graphite. Very different from diamond.

Re:Nanodiamond is Carbon is Graphine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37018582)

Graphene has a hexagonal unit cell composed of single sheet of graphite, and is a semi-metal, making traditional digital transistors difficult to fabricate as they require some form of energy gap. "Nano-diamond" is simply a thin film/polycrystalline form of diamond, and should retain most of the nice properties of diamond, an FCC crystal structure, rather high band gap, and excellent thermal conductivity.

Microelectronics? Nanodiamond? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37018332)

Did they make the diamond out of picocarbon?

Re:Microelectronics? Nanodiamond? (1)

YetAnotherBob (988800) | more than 3 years ago | (#37023934)

No, read the Article. They used methane to grow the diamond films, sort of like the gaseous diffusion they use to grow semiconductor layers in Silicone.

That deposits the Carbon one atom at a time. It's not micro, Nano, Pico or even Exo. It's much smaller than that. We don't have prefix's for that level of smallness. It's Atomic.

After Y2K: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#37019144)

As Nitrozac wrote: Tubes Rock!

(I wore out my t-shirt.)

Nanodiamond electronics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37019382)

Satisfying to see that speculation of diamond as basis for Netty's progeny, per Unusual Perspectives is,so far, right on track.

Crystal clear. (1)

JadedIdealist (2057592) | more than 3 years ago | (#37019928)

Zed: A receiver must be like a transmitter. I think you're a crystal - in fact this one! This diamond! In here, there is infinite storage space for refracted light patterns. Yes or no? The Tabernacle: You have me in the palm of your hand! From Zardoz.

P-type is missing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37020168)

CMOS (and TTL) consumes so little energy, because it consumes (mostly) energy only when gates turn on or off.

To do this one needs N-type gate and P-type gate.

Classic vacum tubes are and N-type (not called as such, but that is what they are.)

Altenatives such as GaAs and N-mos consume too much power for high number of gates. They are not used for microprosessors anymore.
Cray went bankrupt for reason...

Solving the speed and the size problem is not enough. Without the P-type gate the speed and integration size are not enough to make microprosessors, they migh be ok for special uses though. ...or one would need get them running in high teraherz range or so that processor with just few thousand of gates that is running at 300 celsius would make more calculations that a silicon one.

Nanodiamonds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37020186)

are a girl's best friend.

Nanodiamonds are a girl's best friend... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37020490)

Someone had to say it.

I Remember ... (2)

YetAnotherBob (988800) | more than 3 years ago | (#37023890)

I remember reading about this kind of thing in the mid 1990's. Scientific American reported on it. At the time, they were making diamond films on ceramic substrates. the diamond was grown by creating a carbon atom plasma and shooting it at the substrate. Shock plasma deposition of the carbon. It wasn't very efficient. They hadn't worked out too well how to mask and etch the films, so they were using electron beams tp cut into the diamond, then adding the dopant. That limited the size of the device produced. The device was around the diameter of a pencil eraser. The researchers (in Japan, if I remember correctly) were predicting commercial development in as little as five years. Well, I never saw anything come of it.

I was looking forward to that coming out too. I am an electrical engineer, and have worked for a long time with plans for building facilities and power lines and so forth. The device made in Japan was a single SCR (silicon controlled rectifier) that would work just fine at 600 Volts, and a little over 200 Amps. It operated at a temperature of a little over 600 degrees C, but still, an SCR can be used for many power applications. That single SCR was controlling a around 120KW. For big AC to DC power lines, we use SCR banks where each of the SCRs operate at about 24 Volts relative to the next SCR in the stack. This for stacks that go up to 750 KV. The stacks are paralleled to get the current that actually goes out over the line. One such line goes from Washing State to LA, and carries close to 10% of the total power used by LA. for what I was doing at the time. These diamond SCRs would have made a great speed control motor starter. At 480 VAC, we could have made the controller with six SCR's, three fuses, and a disconnect switch, plus a small PLC board. The control station would be bigger than the controller. Typical controllers for this type of application on say a 100 HP motor are around 7 feet tall, 4 to 10 feet wide and 3 to 6 feet deep. reducing this to 2 Feet wide, 3 feet high and 1 foot deep would free up a lot of space. This, if purchasable, would have given me a lot more freedom in placement. If I could reduce the size of the controller, the process people would have loved to use the extra space. I could have used that to justify spending up to $100,000.00 more for the device, in some cases.

We could really use such a device in industry. There are a ton of uses that I could think of off the top of my head. Used as an ultracapacitor controller, it would enable a single capacitor, the size of a couple of C cell batteries to store more power than a car battery. A large electronically controlled circuit breaker, with custom controls, and a quick action would also help to save a lot of equipment and lives.

There were a couple of real problems with it, though. First, it's flammable. The actual electronics would need to be isolated from any contact with oxygen. Encapsulation would do that. Real Graphene computer chips, which I would expect to see before this matures, would also be flammable. But, there are more options for protecting those, because of the relatively lower temperatures.

Also, the Diamond SCR's operated at temperatures higher than some common conductors can withstand, and well above the temperature at which Diamond burns. There would have to be special connectors, and cooling systems. That heat, even if from a small eraser sized element needs to go somewhere. Ultimately out into the environment.

Second, it's apparently not an easily commercialized process or material. I am seeing more reports of Diamond film growth, and also of graphene film growth and production. That is a good thing. Graphene seems to be moving towards fabrication faster than diamond. I would like to see both happening. I have also seen recently, that very low impedance conductors have recently been made from carbon nanotubes. While not room temperature superconductors, if they have lower conductivity than copper, I would really like to be able to specify them. Cost would be a factor there. But, cost can be accounted for, if they deliver a performance maintenance advantage I run in to this all the time with choices of copper verses Aluminum for building wire. If they can be used as superconductors at near to or higher temperatures than the liquid nitrogen superconductors, then they would be able to fill a need also.

If these things can all come together, we will see more changes in the next 10 years than in the last 10, or even 20 years. I hope we do.

Forget Di-Lithium, we have Diamond Semi. The real thing!

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