Diamond Electronics Will Take On the Heat

HRL Laboratories Diamond finFET will operate best under high temperatures up to 1000 degrees Celsius. © 2020 HRL Laboratories.

HRL Laboratories advances to the next phase with their diamond FinFET—a transistor that will function best in high-temperature environments

HRL Laboratories, LLC, electrical engineers have published an advancement on their diamond fin field-effect transistor (FinFET), a device that promises to enable future electronics that operate in high-temperature environments beyond the limits of current technology.

I am optimistic that diamond transistors will ultimately become practical for high temperature electronic systems

“For this new advancement of the technology we were able to use a method called ohmic regrowth to greatly improve the conductivity of the FinFET,” said Biqin Huang, HRL’s Principal Investigator for the FinFET project. “When we first conceived the FinFET design, we knew we would need this ohmic regrowth process to succeed with a transistor that could perform well enough for practical applications. In our previous paper we demonstrated that the diamond transistor would work, now we had to show that we could accomplish the ohmic regrowth process with the diamond material. Achieving this is a large step toward optimized FinFET devices that can handle many possible practical applications.”

One of the properties that makes diamond an interesting material for transistors is its ability to function at high temperatures. The HRL team has demonstrated diamond FinFET operation up to 200 degrees Celsius. Their goal eventually is to operate the FinFET at 1000 degrees Celsius.

“This is a win-win situation for diamond transistors because at room temperature the performance is not good enough, but at those higher temperatures the device actually works better,” Huang said. “Thus, high-temperature applications will be of great interest to us as we go into in the future.”

The ability to operate at high temperature makes the diamond FinFET ideal for use in spacecraft and satellites, or Earthbound applications involving extreme temperatures. Electronics for well drilling or deep Earth operations could greatly benefit from transistors that thrive in a fiercely heated environment. The technology also could enable electronic sensors to be placed in areas of smart engines that are prohibitively hot for standard electronics. Combustion, electric, or even jet engines could be monitored much more extensively with sensors made with diamond FinFETs.

“We have established a roadmap of how to move this technology forward,” Huang said, “What we need now is time and effort. I am optimistic that diamond transistors will ultimately become practical for high temperature electronic systems.”

The paper Diamond lateral finFET with triode-like behavior was published in the journal Nature on February 10th, 2020. The other authors on the paper include Xiwei Bai, Stephen K. Lam, and Samuel Kim.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California (hrl.com) is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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