Monday, July 22, 2024

Diamond could be the super semiconductor the US power grid needs

The transition from silicon to carbon is well underway.  We are actually mastering it all.

this was predictable with the discovery of graphene and improving synthesizing tech.  We will get there.

now do recall that ufos are manufactured with all this along with amorphous metal to generate hte frequencies needed to drive dark matter out.  just saying.

Also modern battery tech is also fully entering the whole power grid just because it produces a massive jump in efficiency.  Store power on demand in your neighborhood.  no further line loss.

Diamond could be the super semiconductor the US power grid needs

The hidden semiconductor abilities of diamonds could help power grids and electric vehicles manage far greater amounts of electricity more efficiently

16 July 2024

Diamond has excellent semiconductor properties

Richard Kail/Science Photo Library

As the US power grid struggles with a historic rise in electricity demand, diamond semiconductors could greatly improve the energy efficiency of AI data centres and electric vehicles, as well as smaller consumer electronics. That is why the US government is betting millions of dollars on developing new power electronics technologies based on diamond.

People use power electronics, devices that convert electricity between the voltage and current required by the power grid and the levels used in an electronic gadget, every time they charge their phones, tablets or laptops. Power electronics also convert stored battery energy into usable power for EV motors and ensure that commercial solar and wind power can be transported efficiently to distant customers.

But the silicon semiconductors used in modern power electronics cannot handle the mounting pressure being placed on the US electrical grid. In order to supply the growing electricity demand from factories and data centres, and to support more electric vehicles and heat pumps as part of US decarbonisation goals, the grid must transmit more power at a higher voltage level than it currently does. A new generation of power electronics is required to quickly and efficiently manage this surge.

“Those devices have to be capable of handling larger currents and voltages,” says Olga Spahn, program director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The agency expects that by 2030, about 80 per cent of all electric power in the US will pass through power electronics devices. “That is why we are interested in ultra-wide bandgap materials, and diamond is one of those,” she says.

ARPA-E has dedicated $42 million through the ULTRAFAST programme to improving the performance limits of silicon semiconductors, along with those of wide and ultra-wide bandgap semiconductor materials. Wide and ultra-wide bandgap materials are categories of semiconductors that can withstand much higher temperatures, voltages and frequencies than silicon. As a result, power electronics based on these materials could be more energy efficient and handle significantly higher power levels than silicon ones.

Wide bandgap semiconductors like silicon carbide and gallium nitride are gaining popularity, and devices based on ultra-wide bandgap semiconductors – such as diamond, aluminium gallium nitride and aluminium nitride – have also been in development. Diamond could deliver the greatest benefits of them all.

“Diamond has fundamentally the best properties of any semiconductor material that we have,” says Lars Voss at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. He describes diamond as one of a few out of a “whole zoo of potential material options” that is under serious consideration for future power electronics.

How incredibly simple tech can supercharge the race to net zero

Diamond devices could be far smaller than their silicon counterparts while having three orders of magnitude lower on-resistance – meaning greatly reduced energy loss – and handling far more power, says Can Bayram at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Such diamond devices could also operate at temperatures beyond 700°C (1292°F) and dissipate heat more effectively than other semiconductors, whereas silicon devices typically cannot function beyond 200°C (392°F).

Another key benefit is that diamond as a material can be made in a lab, whereas other semiconductor materials may incorporate rarer mined elements such as gallium. “Diamonds are just carbon, a light and simple element,” says Bayram.

Bayram is currently developing a diamond semiconductor switching device through projects funded by the ARPA-E programme. The diamond-based device is an updated version of a “photoconductive” semiconductor switch – it is triggered by ultraviolet light instead of electrical signals. This design decision avoids the need for control circuitry that may produce electromagnetic interference.

Similarly, Voss and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory team are developing a diamond transistor device that could support more than 6 kilovolts of power – double that of commercial semiconductors – when arranged in a series of several transistors. Their ARPA-E-funded project is also using light to control the device.

A transistor switch made from synthetic diamond

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

But diamond semiconductors still face major developmental hurdles. For example, a typical method of altering a material to make it a better semiconductor involves introducing other chemical elements. But it is still challenging to alter diamond’s properties in this way due to its extremely rigid crystalline structure.

To make this type of semiconductor cost-effective, companies will also need to produce diamond in large wafer sizes suitable for manufacturing many devices at once. Silicon devices, for example, are commonly made from 30-centimetre silicon wafers. But 10-centimetre diamond wafers only became commercially viable last year in the US and Europe, says Bayram.

“I am hopeful that we will see diamond semiconductor solutions in the grid around 2035 with increased effort, and at the latest by 2050,” he says.