May 27, 2008 -- The Micromachined Diamond Device Initiative (MIDDI), led by researchers at Element Six Ltd. in collaboration with the Institute of Photonics at The University of Strathclyde has been completed successfully, according to the project partners. The aim of MIDDI, which was part-funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry, was to develop world-leading technologies for diamond microelectronic device manufacturing to give European companies a competitive edge over Japan and the US.
MIDDI's main focus was on the development of a 'tool-kit' of advanced micro- and nano-scale manufacturing technologies that could be used for the development of next-generation, high-frequency and high-power electronic devices based on synthetic single-crystal diamond. Element Six is known for manufacturing electronic grade synthetic diamond using chemical vapour deposition; the company says that MIDDI further advances its leadership.
The role of the Institute of Photonics (IoP) at the University of Strathclyde has been to provide the expertise in plasma etching technology, which is used to define the precise surface features required in device fabrications. Established in 1995, the Institute has become a centre of expertise in etching materials that have traditionally been difficult to process. Expertise in materials has contributed to the IoP's success in semiconductor optoelectronics, solid-state laser engineering and biophotonics.
Prof Martin Dawson, Associate Director of the IoP commented, "The MIDDI project has been a showcase example of how UK Universities and Industry can collaborate on successful technological development. Element Six framed the project challenge and provided advanced diamond structures with controlled doping characteristics; the University met the challenge by developing an innovative dry etching approach that is being jointly patented. This opens the way to truly manufacturable diamond electronics, but also has wider implications for a host of new technologies including diamond photonics where, with support from Element Six, the University of Strathclyde now has a significant presence."
The project has reportedly made achievements in three areas that will help Element Six support the development of active electronic devices fabricated in diamond. First, it has led to improved technology for synthesis and processing used in the production of substrates and epitaxial layers with atomic-scale low roughness surfaces. The ability to make nanoscale layers of diamond with high precision depends on a number of complex processing and synthesis steps. For a high frequency active electronic device, some of the individual layers are required to have thicknesses of a few nanometers. In addition, these layers need to be atomically smooth, and have extremely sharp doping profiles.
Second, Element Six is now able to deposit thin layers of boron-doped diamond at the nanoscale. Proposed device concepts for active switching based on diamond such as the delta MESFET use such thin layers sandwiched between two undoped intrinsic diamond layers to support transistor action.
Finally, MIDDI has led to a robust and reproducible dry etching technology suitable for transistor device fabrication.
"These successful outcomes have already underpinned the formation of a new subsidiary by Element Six. Diamond Microwave Devices Ltd is aiming to develop the world's first commercial high frequency, high power diamond transistors," points out Christopher Ogilvie Thompson, Commercial Business Manager at Element Six. "Furthermore the technology developed under MIDDI could also be of benefit to other areas of diamond technology used in advanced applications such as radiation detectors and micro-optic devices."
Element Six calls itself the world's leading supplier of high quality supermaterials used throughout manufacturing industry for a wide range of applications. With revenues of more than US $500 million and almost 4000 employees, Element Six has established production and processing plants in China, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, South Africa, Ukraine and the UK supported by a global distribution network.
The Institute of Photonics, established in 1995, is a commercially-oriented research unit whose key objective is to bridge the gap between academic research and industrial applications and development in the area of photonics.