Diamonds are close to have a new best friend.
Awarded by jewelers for their tough exterior and shiny interior, engineers also like them for their electronic properties. Now, scientists have found a way to grow diamonds in the laboratory, which can be stressed and strained – without losing their shape – to give them special, conductive properties.
A hundreds of times thinner than a human hair, these stretched diamonds can bend up to 10 percent its original shape before turning back – all at room temperature.
Why does it matter – In addition to being hard, diamonds are extremely conductive in terms of both electricity and heat. By creating diamonds in the laboratory, scientists hope to improve these features and introduce them into state-of-the-art electronics – including quantum computer chips.
Their findings were published in the journal on Thursday Science.
Here is the background – When it comes to designing smaller, faster and more efficient electronics than their silicon-based counterparts, diamond-based materials are “Mount Everest” by an engineer – beautiful in theory, but extremely difficult in practice.
Part of the problem, the authors explain, is to overcome the limitations in the crystalline structure of the material, as well as its optimization “merit figures“Ironically, the features that make it a good fit for these future electronic systems.
Ju Li, co-author of the study and professor of materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says Inverse these properties “escalate dramatically” with the “bandgap” of the material, which is a measure of energy.
“Bandgap is a convenient indicator of how much the physical properties of a well-known elastic strain material can be altered,” says Li.
Li’s team tried to investigate whether putting the stem on diamonds could change – and even improve – these merit figures, without the diamonds breaking or resisting the stem.
“This is an active area of research,” says Li. “[But] strain engineering can be very powerful. “
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In their new paper, the researchers set out to test how much monocrystalline diamonds grown in their lab could stem from using something called nanoindenters – essentially a microscopic ram.
What did they do – The team made several diamond samples in the lab and used their little ram to see how they would react to different levels of strains coming at them from different angles. They then used transmission electron microscopy to analyze the crystal structure of the diamonds and see how they were changed by the attack.
What they discovered – After subjecting their small crystals to a fair amount of beatings and blows, the researchers found that they could reliably achieve each other. 6.5 and 8.2 percent it slips with full shape recovery when pushed from three different directions. In general, they observed a maximum strain of 9.7 percent, which the authors report is very close to the ideal elastic limit for a material like this.
Strangely, they discovered that increased pressure on these diamonds led to a corresponding decrease in internal energy – turning them into a direct band superconductor – a feature that will ultimately play an important role in enabling the incorporation of these materials into microelectronic mechanical systems; including light or quantum electronics.
What’s next – Microelectronics based on these bendy diamonds will not be ready for prime time any time soon, but researchers believe the results of their work show that diamonds could usher in transforming the way these electronics are made – and how quickly they become accessible to consumers.
“Diamond is one of the most promising materials for high-frequency, high-power electronic devices as well as for photonic applications,” says Li. “It’s also important quantum material.”
Instead of silicon-based computer chips, quantum computers may instead have diamond chips, which would improve their thermal conductivity and ability to operate at temperatures above absolute zero – a notorious sticking point for quantum technologies.
In the future, Li says the team intends to investigate how this technology could also be applied to renewable energy and storage.
Abstract: Diamond is not only the heaviest material in nature, but it is also an extremely electronic material, with a wide inner band, exceptional wearer mobility and thermal conductivity. Strained diamond can push such extreme figures of merit for device applications. We made microfabricated monocrystalline diamond bridge structures with a length of ~ 1 micrometer with a width of ~ 100 nanometers and we obtained uniform elastic strains at the sample level under uniaxial tensile load along and directions at room temperature. We also demonstrated the deep elastic tension of diamond microbutter matrices. Ultra-allergic, highly controllable elastic strains can fundamentally change the bulk band structures of the diamond, including a calculated substantial bandwidth reduction of up to ~ 2 volts electrons. Our demonstration highlights the huge application potential of deep elastic deformation engineering for photonics, electronics and quantum information technologies.