Evince Technology demonstrates world-first diamond electronic device

COMMERCIAL scientists have demonstrated a world-first diamond electronic device that is expected to markedly cut the cost of renewable energy generation.

The all solid-state device creates the opportunity to switch voltages in excess of 15,000V and is expected to halve the cost of power control systems. Once fully developed, this new class of diamond devices is expected to signal the death of silicon switches.

Silicon is the material most commonly used in modern power switching devices but is only capable of handling up to 3,300V. This has a cost and space implication for uses such as train engines.

Evince Technology Ltd, a power electronics device business located in Durham UK, has developed the new diamond-based devices which it predicts will make the vision of electricity “smart grids” a reality.

Smart grids are the next stage of evolution of the UK’s 100 year-old electricity network, enabling sustainable sources of power generation, such as offshore wind farms, to connect to any point on the grid – something that is not economically viable today.

The device just demonstrated, a diode based on Evince Technology’s proprietary diamond technology, is a major milestone in efforts to create products capable of controlling power at utility distribution voltages.

The company plans to release its first commercial product in late 2010, a 10,000V fast recovery diode that will significantly improve the performance of existing high voltage silicon-based switching devices.

Dr Gareth Taylor, Evince Technology chief executive officer, said: “Governments across the globe are placing great faith in the ability of sustainable and renewable energy to halt the effects of global warming. However, until these energy sources are commercially viable their take-up will be slow.

“Evince’s diamond electronic switches are likely to be the first devices worldwide capable of switching at utility distribution voltages and will have a dramatic impact on energy generation costs. This, in turn, will make renewable energy a much more affordable alternative.

“The diodes we are developing also represent an enabling technology for smart grids, renewable power and rail and marine traction drive systems. The ability to switch greater than 15,000V in a single Evince device is expected to halve the cost of power control systems. This will make many renewable generation systems, such as wave and tidal power, economically viable for the first time.”

Dr Neil Loxley, Evince Technology Chairman, said: “Diamond is often perceived as the ultimate electronic material but its commercial development has been restricted as developers have attempted to make it work in the same way as a classic silicon semiconductor. By contrast, the Evince solution uses a radically different and elegant solution that exploits the fundamental properties of diamond.”

The company is in the process of raising £2m new venture capital funding to fund the next phase of product development and to build new partnerships.

Evince Technology was founded in 2008 to commercialise a new approach using diamond as an electronic material. This breakthrough comes after more than a decade of privately funded research.

The company has been funded to date by venture capital from Northstar Equity Investors, Imperial Innovations and Carbon Trust Investments. The company has additionally secured a Proof of Concept loan from NStar, BERR research and development grants via One North East and support from the Carbon Trust Incubator Scheme.

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