Diamonds Are a Cell Tower’s Best Friend


Arizona State University researchers are exploring the use of diamonds in the development of transistors that may be useful in communications technologies. Certain properties in diamonds assist in the dissipation of heat in transistors in technology used on cell towers, according to Trevor Thornton, a professor of electrical engineering at ASU, leading a team of researchers.

 The power transistors in older cell towers are typically made from silicon, while those in newer 5G systems use gallium nitride. Diamonds would increase the thermal conductivity of transistors up to ten times more than gallium nitride and would reduce the size of transistors by 90 percent, according to Thornton. With improved heat dissipation, Thornton’s team expects transistors made from diamond will reduce the cooling power needed for cell towers. 

Artificial diamonds are being grown in labs at ASU. While diamond is the research team’s chosen material for the main body of a transistor, the researchers are investigating the use of boron nitride, a chemical compound of boron and nitrogen, for the transistors’ electrical contacts.

In general, researchers are looking to develop technologies and materials for the construction of batteries, solar electricity generation and power electronics, which convert electricity when it’s moved through transmission channels.

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