Horizon 2020 project ‘GreenDiamond’ awarded ‘Star of Europe’ 2021 Trophy

Professor Richard B. Jackman (UCL) and project coordinator Professor Etienne Gheeraet (University of Grenoble Alpes) receive the trophy

Professor Richard Jackman has received the "Star of Europe" 2021 Trophy for his EU funded project "GreenDiamond" in collaboration with Etienne Gheeraert (Project Coordinator) of the University of Grenoble Alpes, France.

The 9th edition of  les Étoiles de l'Europe  took place on 2nd December 2021, in the presence of the French Minister of Education, Research and Innovation, Ms Frédérique Vidal at the Quai Branly Jacques Chirac museum, as part of the Horizon Europe Forum.  This French trophy rewards the European commitment of teams of international European researchers, including a French group in a leading role, who have distinguished themselves by the quality of their science, the projects technology impact, interdisciplinary nature and societal benefits.  GreenDiamond, a recently completed €4 million European Horizon 2020 funded project was a 2021 winner, with clear climate control credentials. Coordinated by the French CNRS and with the Diamond Electronics Group (DEG) at the LCN at UCL playing a key role, the project also included 8 other European institutes and industry labs.

Low-carbon electricity generation is essential for Europe to meet its emissions targets. Making sustainable energy production as efficient and profitable as possible is a key part of this challenge. “A good example is that of offshore wind farms, where energy has to be transported to the continent via submarine cables,” explains GreenDiamond project coordinator Etienne Gheeraert of the University of Grenoble Alpes, France, GreenDiamond project coordinator. To transport this electricity, two high voltage converters are used, one at the wind farm and the other on the mainland. These converters generally contain silicon power devices. “It's a weak point,” explains Gheeraert. "Silicon is cheap, but a poor material for conducting high voltage electricity." The choice leads to significant losses during energy transfer.

Power of industrial diamond

The GreenDiamond project aimed to meet industry demand for alternative semiconductors. This research focused on a mineral renowned for its luxury and decadence: diamond. “An important message here is that diamond production is not expensive!” Professor Richard Jackman of the London Centre for Nanotechnology and the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL notes. “It's actually quite easy to make from methane and hydrogen. This process gives a much better crystalline quality than natural diamond. “Diamond is the ultimate semiconductor,” adds Jackman. “No semiconductor has better intrinsic properties. We are still in the era of silicon, but we are about to enter the era of carbon with graphene, nanotubes and diamond.

The price of industrial diamonds is currently tied to the gemstone market, where prices are significantly increased above true cost. Jackman is convinced that the two markets - industrial and gem - will soon separate, with an emerging technology market offering synthetic diamonds at low cost. “The first challenge we faced was to manufacture a new converter with diamond transistors inside,” Jackman explains. "This required the development of semiconductor technology for diamond, based on adjustments from standard silicon approaches." The project team also developed a set of devices to handle not just high power but also high temperature operation. “We wanted to make sure that our converter was as reliable as a regular converter,” explains Jackman. “It's critical. Offshore power converters should ideally require no maintenance or replacement.”

Learn more about the GreenDiamond project on their webpage: https://www.greendiamond-project.eu/project-overview/

Other contributors
Professor Etienne Gheeraet (University of Grenoble Alpes)