Are Diamonds a Computer’s Best Friend?
In a first, physicists at The Ohio State University have demonstrated that information can flow through a diamond wire, a breakthrough that could eventually make computers faster and more power efficient. In the experiment, electrons did not flow through diamond as they do in traditional electronics; rather, they passed along a magnetic effect, which is transferred down the wire - a phenomenon known as “spin”.
“Spin” has been observed in ferromagnetic materials before, but the effect has never been observed in diamond, as it is generally considered too inert due to the tightly locked structure of its carbon atoms. However, the team at OSU was able to seed the diamond wire with nitrogen atoms, creating enough unpaired electrons to produce spin. While the wire contained just one nitrogen atom for every three million diamond atoms, that was enough to successfully transmit spin across its length, demonstrating its capacity for data transference.
Diamond as a material is potentially far superior to traditional metal-oxide semiconductors. Diamond is tough, transparent, electrically insulating, and nearly impervious to heat and environmental contamination. Diamondbased devices could theoretically operate at a far higher temperature and speed than those utilizing silicon transistors, and at a much lower power requirement.
There’s still a way to go until diamond finds its way into your electronic devices, but don’t be surprised if you soon find some bling on your circuit board. And don’t worry about the price, the team used synthetic diamond costing a mere US$100, and the wires are so small, about a billion of them can be made from a single carat.