Are Di­a­monds a Com­puter’s Best Friend?

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - by James Lu

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.


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