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Making Superman Redundant, OptoFab now makes diamonds Return to case studies page

Dr Peter Ha, OptoFab node - Macquarie University
Frontier technologies
If you thought Superman was strong, meet Dr Peter Ha of OptoFab. Peter now makes diamonds with his own hands, and a little help from the newly installed Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) facility at Macquarie University.

Diamond is the strongest and hardest material known to man and has the highest thermal conductivity. It is also a semiconductor, fluorescent and biocompatible. This unique combination of properties has led to diamond based technologies solving more problems than Superman ever could, without failing at the sight of kryptonite - did I mention it is chemically inert?

Peter and the team at OptoFab can produce diamond as particles or films. Unlike many other diamond production systems the films produced from the CVD system can evenly coat all surfaces including complex object such as bearings.

“Some of the first diamonds we grew were in the form of powders” said Peter. “We have developed many processes to grow various types of continuous films, such as optical windows or hard, low friction coatings for mechanical parts.”

On the high-tech end of the application spectrum, Jana Say from Macquarie University used fluorescent diamonds for her medical research.

Jana describes her project: “Our nano-diamonds have what we call nitrogen-vacancy centres, the things that make the diamonds fluoresce. These diamonds can be used to probe how the body and cells work to help better understand a variety of diseases including cancer. The advantage of using diamonds over other nanoparticles is their durability and biocompatibility. Other materials tend to lose fluorescence quickly and can be toxic so they destroy the living cells we are trying to analyse.”

    While it is early days for the facility, Peter is preparing to support other applications for diamond, including:
  • Grinding media – diamond powders made with the CVD can be used with OptoFab’s high speed ball mill for very fine grinding of other materials;
  • Biomedical implants – applying a diamond coating makes them biocompatible. For applications such as joint replacements they also take advantage of the low-friction and low-wear properties the coating provides;
  • Biosensors – conductive diamond is an ideal material as both an electrode and platform to support living cells
  • High power electronics – diamond semiconductor devices can tolerate high currents and can be used at elevated temperatures;
  • High performance heat sinks – diamond can cool devices up to three times more efficiently than copper heat sinks
  • Optoelectronics – diamonds can be used as a light source or as wires (waveguides) for optical circuits;

    • Peter and the team at OptoFab look forward to helping researchers uncover the full potential of diamond based technology in solving some of the biggest problems industry and society is facing today. Please contact ANFF if you are interested in investigating the potential of using diamond deposition facilities in your R&D operations.