Diamonds are a chip's best friend

Despite fears of a global economic meltdown, a group of scientists are flying in the face of austerity with a decadent approach to chip manufacturing – make them from diamonds.

According to researchers at Vanderbilt University, diamonds have attributes that make them more efficient and hardwearing than silicon.

They claim that the chips can run at higher speeds and at lower power, as well as being resistant to radiation and high temperatures.

More importantly it will finally give chip companies the chance they have been looking for. What better way to make your brand cool than having gangsta rappers spitting lyrics about blinged-out Atoms

Which girl wouldn’t swoon about an engagement motherboard?

The scientists at Vanderbilt don’t think it would be that expensive to pimp a few microchips.

This is because it’s possible to construct nanodiamond thin films, which use miniscule amounts of the expensive material. The researchers claim one billion could be manufactured from just one carat.

The diamond used in the chemical vapour deposition method to produce the thin films is less than one thousandth the cost of ‘jewellery’ diamonds, say the researchers. Overall, they reckon it could give silicon a rival in terms of cost.

Now they have been making transistors, with plans for logic gates made of the material detailed in journal Electronics Letters.  Unfortunately, as with most excitable silicon replacements, it doesn’t look like bejewelled chips are going to be making their way to our desktops any time soon.

Potential applications for the diamond chips are for military electronics, circuitry that can operate in space, ultra high speed switches, and applications where chips are exposed to extreme conditions.

Diamond-based chips can survive temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and as low as minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Due to incredibly strong resistance to radiation and heat, the diamonds could be used in some important but highly dangerous applications. 

The researchers think the chips would have been perfect for use in the powerplants hit by the Japanese tsunami, with claims that nanodiamond circuits would be perfect for failsafe circuitry in nuclear reactors.

But before you head off down to your local blood diamond mine, it should be noted that the chips will only work when kept in a vacuum.  This allows the electrons to move easily between the nanodiamond components.