Image Credit: Element Six
Thanks to its unparallelled material properties, synthetic diamond is an adaptable and unique engineering material capable of transforming a range of applications from water sanitization to high-power lasers used in the automotive industry. The majority of these technological advancements have been realized through plasma deposition methods.
This involves the routine deposition of large planar diamond films that have been shaped for an array of optical and thermal solutions. These include: optical components such as prisms; lenses for sensing and inspection; optical windows for high-power infrared lasers; heat spreaders for thermal management of electrical components, and electrochemical electrodes for wastewater treatment.
Over the last ten years, tailoring the growth of large planar diamond wafers has been a vital part of advancing these developments across various industries. However, what is not common knowledge is that growth techniques have been expanded to directly grow a non-planar diamond, which includes free-standing curved films and diaphragms.
Using plasma deposition combined with shaped substrates, onto which diamond is grown, pioneering material capabilities are emerging. These are capabilities that would have been near impossible to accomplish with traditional planar diamond geometries, largely due to cost and technical challenges.
Bowers & Wilkins, a market-leading audio equipment manufacturer, was one of the first companies to identify and implement innovative applications of non-planar synthetic diamond in product development. Element Six collaborated with Bowers & Wilkins to develop a curved, free-standing diamond diaphragm, measuring just 40 microns in thickness. The outcome was a tweeter dome with unrivalled clarity in sound production, which reigns supreme in the high-frequency part of the audio spectrum.
Diamond’s low mass and high strength enables the ultimate performance metric for emulating high-frequency sound without distortion. Driving sound waves significantly further up the frequency scale than materials traditionally used in high-end speakers such as aluminum and beryllium oxide, a diamond speaker dome delivers optimum piston-like behavior. While beyond the audio range, this break-up frequency is an excellent feature of the performance in the range <20 kHz. In 2012, the collaboration resulted in Element Six and Bowers & Wilkins winning the 'Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation'.
As the Bowers & Wilkins application demonstrates, the ability to deposit shaped diamond directly reveals new and exciting opportunities. Some of these may include medical implants such as hip joints, curved optical windows for high-velocity imaging in the defense industry, and low friction, longer life innovations within aerospace.
Over the past two decades, Element Six has achieved many diamond material firsts, using plasma diamond deposition techniques developed in-house. Its R&D and application teams have faced numerous challenges and are always willing to find new applications and partners to work with. What other revolutionary performance opportunities are out there? Whether the application is planar or non-planar, Element Six has the capacity and potential to position diamond as the ideal solution.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Element Six.
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