Diamond Thin Films

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Archived Viewpoints

2003

About This Technology

July 2003

Natural diamond finds extensive use in the abrasives and cutting markets. However, its many desirable chemical and physical properties have remained largely unexploited in other potential markets because of the prohibitive cost of mining and grading the crystals. Research is uncovering a range of simple and commercially feasible vacuum-coating processes for the manufacture of thin films of crystalline diamond. During deposition, researchers can optimize the properties of these films for a range of specific applications that are now seeing commercialization.

Research has identified a growing number of diamond-containing materials. All can impart some combination of corrosion/wear resistance, thermal conductivity, or electrical insulation/conduction to surfaces that could not intrinsically exhibit such properties, but controlling the conditions of growth is still a major technological issue. Polycrystalline films are more difficult to grow and have properties superior to those of DLC, but even DLC films have properties exceeding those of many competing materials, making them commercially attractive for some less-demanding applications.

As a result, diamond thin films in general will find many uses in a range of engineering and manufacturing fields, from wear-resistant machine tools to high-speed electronics. The introduction of diamond thin films may affect process equipment vendors, surface-engineering companies, and advanced component manufacturers because DTFs offer a means to improve performance and therefore add value to many existing products. In some cases, DTFs will also lead to completely new opportunities where diamonds' unique characteristics in thin-film form can now apply.