Diamond wafer startup takes on SiC

Diamond wafer startup takes on SiC

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

French startup Diamfab is looking to take on silicon carbide devices with its diamond epitaxial wafers in a dual business model.

Under this new approach, the company will sell its technology directly and through application-oriented strategic partnerships and alliances. The strategy is designed to achieve a scalable model with a mix of in-house capabilities and an extended partner ecosystem to design and build diodes, transistors, capacitors, quantum sensors and high-energy detectors.

The first target market is capacitors for electric vehicles, where the advantages of diamond semiconductors over existing capacitor technologies and silicon carbide can reduce the size and boost the performance over the lifetime of a vehicle. 

“We have already filed a patent on an all-diamond capacitor and are collaborating with a leading player in this field,” said Gauthier Chicot, CEO of Diamfab.  “Among other parameters, we have achieved our targets: a high current density of over 1000A/cm2 and a breakdown electric field larger than 7.7MV/cm. These are key parameters for the performances of future devices and are already superior to what existing materials like SiC can provide for power electronics. Moreover, we have a clear roadmap to reach 4-inch wafers by 2025 as a key enabler for mass production.”

Diamfab was launched in 2019 as a sin off from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). It has developed IP for synthesizing and doping diamond epitaxial layers using microwave-generated plasma and under controlled temperature and pressure conditions. This cracks methane molecules into carbon which are then rearranged on the surface of a diamond seed. At the same time, a precise and controlled amount of boron or nitrogen is added to grow diamond-doped layers and form a high value-added wafer ready for device fabrication.      

“Over the past two years, we have made significant progress working with R&D teams to process high value-added diamond wafers. Our application-oriented approach based on a dual business model will now allow us to work with a broader set of industrial partners, to develop and sell high value-added diamond wafers and our patented diamond devices manufacturing processes, while also selling directly to end users with a fab-light model,” said Chicot.

Diamond has 5000 higher current density and 30 times higher voltage compared to silicon and can operate in harsh environments with high temperature and radiation. In automotive applications, Diamfab wafers could allow the fabrication of 80% lighter and more compact power converters. In power grid applications, the wafers could also more easily handle higher voltage and reduce energy losses by a factor of 10 compared to silicon.

Applications range from electric vehicles with diamond power electronics devices to IoT with 20 years long life battery, to nuclear and spatial applications with hardened electronics components or detectors in healthcare, and even ultraprecise quantum sensors for autonomous vehicles.

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