Diamonds for microelectronics

Founded in 2019, Diamfab, a start-up spun out of Institut Néel,* has raised €8.7 million to speed up the pre-industrialisation of diamond components for the semiconductor industry.

Equipe management Diamfab Capable of efficiently withstanding voltages 30 times higher than silicon for the same thickness, diamond is regarded as the ultimate semiconductor. It enables very high electrical power to be managed efficiently, with very low losses and a reduced carbon footprint, from manufacture to use. 'Since we are producing components that deliver better performance and consume less energy by using less raw material – and therefore less energy – in production, the environmental impact is lower than with current solutions,' says Gauthier Chicot, founder and CEO of Diamfab.

For 30 years, the researchers behind the start-up have been working on the various stages in diamond manufacture, which can be produced industrially at reasonable cost through 'chemical vapour deposition'. 'We use a commercial substrate, on which we deposit thin layers of "doped" diamond with special electrical properties.' Not only does the start-up manufacture the material, it also produces the components themselves, some of which are protected by patents.

A pilot line up and running in 2026

The €8.7 million that Diamfab recently raised will be used to continue developing and scaling up its technology. 'Currently, diamond is deposited onto 0.5-inch-diameter plates, and we need to increase this to at least 4 inches to make the technology industrially viable.' Meanwhile, the start-up is working with manufacturers such as SOITEC, ST Microelectronics, Murata and Schneider Electric to develop and produce the test components they need in small production runs under realistic, reproducible conditions. 'We are finishing setting up a small pilot line to produce small runs by 2026, with a market launch scheduled for 2030.'
The target markets include applications in power electronics, particularly in the automotive industry, as well as quantum sensors.

*CNRS / UGA / Grenoble INP - UGA