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Industry prospects of diamond semiconductor substrate materials

February 28,2024

Semiconductors are materials with electrical conductivity between that of conductors and insulators at room temperature. They are widely used in consumer electronics, communication systems, medical instruments, and other fields.

I. The importance of semiconductor substrate materials

The semiconductor industry chain consists of substrate and epitaxy as basic materials, which are applied to many fields such as new energy and electronics through chip design, manufacturing, and packaging. Among them, the manufacturing of substrate is the most technical barrier and the most valuable link in the industry chain, and the choice of substrate materials will become an important direction for the development of the next generation of semiconductors in the future.

Semiconductor substrate materials are an important part of the semiconductor industry and are the basic materials for manufacturing semiconductor devices and integrated circuits. Currently, in the semiconductor substrate materials industry, the third generation wide bandgap materials mainly include silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN), aluminum nitride (AlN), gallium oxide (Ga2O3), etc. While synthetic diamond is considered to be the ultimate semiconductor of the fourth generation.

Over the past decade, countries around the world have been making their own layouts and the industrialization process has been rapidly rising.  With the rapid development of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, 5G and other technologies, the demand for semiconductor devices and integrated circuits will continue to increase. In addition, with the rapid development of new energy, intelligent driving and other fields, the demand for high-performance and high-efficiency semiconductor devices will also continue to grow. All of these will promote the rapid development of semiconductor substrate materials industry. These new materials have higher heat resistance, high pressure resistance, corrosion resistance and other characteristics, which will bring more innovation and breakthroughs to the semiconductor industry.


II.  Types of diamond semiconductor substrate materials

The global synthetic diamond industry mainly has two preparation methods: high temperature high pressure method (HTHP) and chemical vapor deposition method (CVD).  Among them, CVD method is widely considered as the optimal material for preparing next-generation high-power, high-frequency, high-temperature and low-power loss electronic devices due to its advantages of high pressure resistance, large radio frequency, low cost, high temperature resistance and many other advantages.

CVD synthetic diamond is divided into polycrystalline diamond and single crystal diamond according to the different atomic arrangements.  Polycrystalline diamond is mostly used in the manufacture of heat sink materials (heat sinks) in the semiconductor field. Single crystal diamond is expected to be widely applied in many fields such as semiconductor substrates due to its advantages of regular atomic arrangement and strong consistency.

1. Monocrytalline  diamond

Looking forward to the future, CVD artificial diamond can be used to produce large-area monocrystalline wafers through wafer splicing, which can completely solve the heat dissipation problem as a semiconductor chip substrate and utilize the excellent physical and chemical properties of diamond to manufacture the fourth generation of "ultimate semiconductor".

With the full-scale development of the 5G communication era, the application of diamond single crystal materials in semiconductors and high-frequency power devices has become increasingly prominent.  At present, countries around the world are stepping up their research and development work on diamond in the semiconductor field.  Japan has successfully developed a method for mass production of ultra-high purity large-size diamond wafers, which has an astonishing storage capacity. Diamond single crystals and products are important material bases for the implementation of major national strategies such as ultra-precision machining and smart grid, as well as for the upgrading of industrial clusters such as intelligent manufacturing and 5G communication.  Breakthroughs and industrialization of related technologies are of great significance for the independent security of intelligent manufacturing and big data industries.

2. Polycrystalline diamond

Polycrystalline diamond has high performance advantages as a high-power chip and electronic device heat sink.  In the future, with the increase in production and the decrease in cost, it is expected to be widely used in the field of semiconductor heat sinks. Element Six has achieved commercial production of 4-inch electronic-grade polycrystalline diamond, and the largest preparation size in the world can reach 8 inches.  With the improvement and upgrading of MPCVD technology, it is expected to be compatible with existing 8-inch semiconductor wafer manufacturing lines, and ultimately realize the large-scale application and promotion of polycrystalline diamond heat sink materials in the semiconductor material industry.


III. Industry prospects of diamond semiconductor substrate materials

At present, the global semiconductor market is showing a trend of centralization, with market shares mainly occupied by a few large enterprises. However, with the continuous development of technology and the increase of market uncertainty, small and medium-sized enterprises will also usher in more development opportunities. In the future, enterprises with technological innovation capabilities and specialized production capabilities will have more opportunities to stand out.

Although the development of the semiconductor industry is now more or less restricted by foreign supply chains, due to the acceleration of the domestic substitution process and the continuous development of downstream industries such as new energy vehicles, wind power and photovoltaics, and 5G, it can be considered that the development trend of the semiconductor industry is still positive and it is still in its infancy. If the past decade was the golden decade of consumer electronics, then the next decade will be the golden stage of semiconductor development.  The semiconductor substrate material industry has a broad prospect, but it also requires enterprises to continuously improve their capabilities in technology research and development, production management, etc. to adapt to the continuous changes in the market and demand. The future development space is immeasurable.