Strained Diamond Electronics

Researchers at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) have demonstrated large, uniform tensile elastic straining of microfabricated diamond arrays through the nanomechanical approach. This has the potential of strained diamonds as prime candidates for advanced functional devices in microelectronics, photonics, and quantum information technologies.

Above – CAPTION Stretching of microfabricated diamonds pave ways for applications in next-generation microelectronics. CREDIT Dang Chaoqun / City University of Hong Kong

Diamond has a high-performance electronic and photonic material due to its ultra-high thermal conductivity, exceptional electric charge carrier mobility, high breakdown strength and ultra-wide bandgap. Bandgap is a key property in semi-conductor, and wide bandgap allows operation of high-power or high-frequency devices.

Science – Achieving large uniform tensile elasticity in microfabricated diamond

Stretching diamond to the limit
Diamond is thought of as being unbendable, but thin samples can actually deform elastically. Applying relatively large amounts of strain to diamond may shift its electronic properties, which is of interest for a number of applications. Dang et al. elastically stretched micrometer-sized plates of diamond along different crystallographic directions. These relatively large samples show that deep-strain engineering can be accomplished in more uniform diamond specimens and may have a large impact on the electronic properties.

Diamond is not only the hardest material in nature, but is also an extreme electronic material with an ultrawide bandgap, exceptional carrier mobilities, and thermal conductivity. Straining diamond can push such extreme figures of merit for device applications. We microfabricated single-crystalline diamond bridge structures with ~1 micrometer length by ~100 nanometer width and achieved sample-wide uniform elastic strains under uniaxial tensile loading along the [100], [101], and [111] directions at room temperature. We also demonstrated deep elastic straining of diamond microbridge arrays. The ultralarge, highly controllable elastic strains can fundamentally change the bulk band structures of diamond, including a substantial calculated bandgap reduction as much as ~2 electron volts. Our demonstration highlights the immense application potential of deep elastic strain engineering for photonics, electronics, and quantum information technologies.

Uniform tensile straining across the sample

The team firstly microfabricated single-crystalline diamond samples from a solid diamond single crystals. The samples were in bridge-like shape – about one micrometre long and 300 nanometres wide, with both ends wider for gripping (See image: Tensile straining of diamond bridges). The diamond bridges were then uniaxially stretched in a well-controlled manner within an electron microscope. Under cycles of continuous and controllable loading-unloading of quantitative tensile tests, the diamond bridges demonstrated a highly uniform, large elastic deformation of about 7.5% strain across the whole gauge section of the specimen, rather than deforming at a localized area in bending. And they recovered their original shape after unloading.

By further optimizing the sample geometry using the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard, they achieved a maximum uniform tensile strain of up to 9.7%, which even surpassed the maximum local value in the 2018 study, and was close to the theoretical elastic limit of diamond. More importantly, to demonstrate the strained diamond device concept, the team also realized elastic straining of microfabricated diamond arrays.

Tuning the bandgap by elastic strains

The team then performed density functional theory (DFT) calculations to estimate the impact of elastic straining from 0 to 12% on the diamond’s electronic properties. The simulation results indicated that the bandgap of diamond generally decreased as the tensile strain increased, with the largest bandgap reduction rate down from about 5 eV to 3 eV at around 9% strain along a specific crystalline orientation. The team performed an electron energy-loss spectroscopy analysis on a pre-strained diamond sample and verified this bandgap decreasing trend.

SOURCES- City University of Hong Kong, Science
Written By brian Wang,