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£4m bid to find tomorrow's technologies

Monday 20th February 2017

Researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy are joining a £4m project to develop technologies that support tomorrow's; phone networks, space and defence systems.

The five-year programme, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is being led by the University of Bristol. It will join Cardiff and three other universities (Glasgow, Cambridge and Birmingham) as well as industry partners to develop next-generation technology that paves the way for 5G and 6G mobile phone networks and advanced radar systems.

Researchers will develop gallium nitride (GaN)-on-diamond microwave technology as global demand for high-power microwave devices continues to increase. The project aims to develop high-electron-mobility transistors (or HEMTS). Energy flows in these can be as high as the heat flux on the surface of the sun. Researchers believe diamond – due to its ultra-high thermal conductivity – is the best material for handling the energy needed to drive 5G and 6G networks.

Professor Oliver Williams, School of Physics and Astronomy, established Cardiff Diamond Foundry, the largest diamond growth group in the UK. Professor Williams said: "Diamond has unrivalled thermal conductivity with simultaneously high electrical resistivity. By combining the extreme thermal properties of diamond with the excellent electrical properties of GaN one can hope for a new paradigm in power handling electronics. Cardiff Diamond Foundry specialises in the integration of diamond with other materials for novel applications and thus this project is closely correlated with our main activities."

Early UK industry access to the technology will be achieved by collaboration with the Institute of Compound Semiconductors (ICS), a Cardiff University translation centre led by the School of Physics and Astronomy, which is being developed on Cardiff Innovation Campus.