Researchers in Japan think that diamond chips can ultimately replace silicon ones -- twenty years from now. Kuriko Miyake reports.
The Japanese government will start a joint research project with industry in fiscal year 2003 to develop diamond-based semiconductors, an advanced chip technology that could one day replace silicon as the base for super fast, high voltage semiconductors, it said on Friday.
Driven by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, part of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the project has a budget of $6 million for the financial year starting in April 2003. The project is expected to last for several years.
Apparently, diamond chips have several advantages over silicon.
Diamond chips can work at a temperature of up to 1000 degrees Celsius, while silicon chips stop working above 150 degrees Celsius. This property means that diamond chips can work at a much higher frequency or faster speed and be placed in a high-temperature environment, such as a vehicle's engine.
Diamond can also resist voltages up to around 200 volts, compared to around 20 volts for a silicon chip. This means power electronics, such as an inverter, can become much smaller in size.
But other obstacles remain.
Although artificial diamond for chips has been developed, it is still much more expensive than silicon. A four-millimeter-square diamond substrate costs several tens of thousands of yen compared to virtually nothing for silicon, he said.
Another problem is that electricity cannot travel smoothly through diamond. Thus, engineers are seeking impurities that can be added to aid electricity flow.
Source: Kuriko Miyake, IDG News Service, December 27, 2002
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