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Synthetic diamonds driving semiconductor manufacturing to a new level

Sep 09, 2003

Diamond semiconductor age beckons

Driving Moore's Law

By Egan Orion: Wednesday 13 August 2003, 11:15

"Gin a body meet a body

Comin thro' the glen,

Gin a body kiss a body,

Need the warl' ken?" (Robert Burns scratched it on the window of the Globe Tavern in Dumfries, Scotland using a diamond ring.)

IN A FEW YEARS diamonds will lose their high values, according to an article appearing in yesterday's online edition of Wired.

The De Beers cartel, which has tightly controlled diamond prices through various means for more than a century, is alarmed at this prospect. But De Beers is not going to be able to win. Synthetic diamonds are here.

Two companies -- Gemesis in Florida and Apollo Diamond in Massachusetts -- are perfecting processes for growing real diamonds that are virtually indistinguishable from naturally produced stones. Although mechanically produced diamonds can be detected with infrared spectroscopy, the other process, chemical vapor deposition, "grows" diamonds that are suspected only because they're perfectly flawless, as rarely occurs in nature.

Aside from upsetting the economics of the gem diamond trade, this shows promise for driving semiconductor manufacturing to a new level. Diamond is likely the best possible semiconductor due to its mechanical strength and high heat dissipation capacity. Look for diamond-based chips in just a few years. If the US doesn't develop diamond semiconductor technology first, either Japan or Europe, or perhaps China, will. It will transform the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industries. Can ceramic, high-temp mainboards and serious cooling technologies be far behind?

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