French deep tech spinout Diamfab crystallizes hopes for diamond semiconductors to support green transition

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As much backing flows into heavy tech to reside difficult world problems for illustration ambiance change, PhD entrepreneurs coming retired of Europe’s apical universities and labs are progressively turning their investigation into companies.

French spinout Diamfab, founded successful 2019, is 1 example. Its co-founders, CEO Gauthier Chicot and CTO Khaled Driche, some PhDs successful nanoelectronics and recognized researchers successful nan section of semiconducting diamond, near Institut Néel, a laboratory of nan French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), pinch 2 licensed patents nether their belt.

Since then, Chicot and Driche person registered much patents and brought connected a 3rd co-founder, Ivan Llaurado, arsenic their main gross serviceman and business director. They besides raised an €8.7 cardinal information of backing from Asterion Ventures, Bpifrance’s French Tech Seed fund, Kreaxi, Better Angle, Hello Tomorrow and Grenoble Alpes Métropole.

This liking comes because nan paradigm astir semiconducting diamonds has changed successful nan past 2 years. “Diamonds are nary longer a laboratory subject: They person go an business reality, pinch startups, pinch manufacturers willing successful this field, and pinch nan partners we person astir us,” Chicot told TechCrunch.

Getting retired of nan lab

Silicon is still nan astir wide utilized semiconductor worldly successful electronics because it’s ubiquitous and cheap. But there’s dream different options could someday outperform it, and not conscionable successful labs. Tesla’s determination to usage silicon carbide alternatively of silicon was an important measurement successful that direction, and gem could beryllium next.

Because gem is people much resistant to precocious temperatures and much energy-efficient, Diamfab envisions a early successful which a fixed constituent will request a overmuch smaller aboveground of synthetic gem than of silicon carbide, which will make it competitory connected price.

The firm’s semipermanent extremity is to make much businesslike semiconductors pinch a little c footprint, while besides supporting what Chicot refers to arsenic “the electrification of society,” starting pinch transportation.

Diamond-based electronics unfastened nan doorway to applications successful nan section of powerfulness electronics — deliberation of smaller batteries and chargers pinch much autonomy, because little somesthesia power is required, which is peculiarly applicable for nan automotive assemblage and electrical mobility.  But gem wafers could besides beryllium leveraged for atomic batteries, abstraction tech and quantum computing, too.

The lawsuit for gem arsenic a amended replacement to silicon doesn’t travel retired of nowhere; Diamfab is building connected nan Institut Néel’s 30 years of R&D into synthetic gem growth. Its founders wanted to return this exertion retired of nan lab. “We wanted to beryllium useful pioneers,” Chicot said.

Being awarded nan Jury’s Grand Prize of i-Lab successful 2019 was a turning constituent for nan firm. Co-organized by French institutions, it brought grants and a consciousness of validation that helped nan squad inwards and outwards.

With this seal of approval, “banks spot you moreover if you don’t make immoderate sales,” Chicot said.”It was a existent positive successful nan opening to get this award. And it was partially because we person awesome technology, and partially because it’s exertion that’s important for nan world.”

Diamond promises

French nationalist assemblage finance slope Bpifrance, 1 of nan organizers of nan i-Lab awards, is doubling down connected Diamfab pinch backing from nan French Tech Seed fund, which Bpifrance manages connected behalf of nan French authorities arsenic portion of nan France 2030 plan.

When silicon has go a commodity, Diamfab’s high-value-added gem wafers could beryllium made successful Europe and sold astatine a premium warranted by their higher efficiency, which besides ties into nan greenish transition. Decarbonization is 1 cardinal extremity of France 2030, and diamonds could help.

Their c footprint would beryllium lighter because of nan smaller aboveground that gem requires compares to silicon carbide, but besides because Diamfab synthetizes its diamonds from methane. In nan future, this root could beryllium biomethane, giving a commercialized outlet to this byproduct of recycling.

Diamfab wafer diodes

Image Credits: Diamfab

Most of this, however, is still successful nan future. Diamfab is not decades distant from its goals, but says it will request 5 years for its exertion to beryllium capable to support nan wide accumulation of gem wafers that fresh manufacture requirements. This intends taking its know-how successful increasing and doping gem layers connected one-inch wafers, and applying it to nan four-inch wafers that silicon carbide already useful on. Even pinch capable backing to support a mini aviator accumulation line, this will return a fewer years.

This five-year sky made Diamfab a no-go for immoderate VCs; while these whitethorn beryllium sympathetic to nan thought of reindustrializing Europe pinch cutting-edge innovation, their liquidity cycles make these types of investments much difficult. But Chicot yet managed to information up nan €8.7 cardinal that will thief nan startup spell done its pre-industrialization phase.

Grenoble, a heavy tech hub

The group of investors that person rallied astir Diamfab is  “balanced,” Chicot said, including nationalist players, evergreen money Asterion Labs, and supporters of Diamfab’s region, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and its metropolis of Grenoble.

While there’s warranted hype astir AI successful Paris, Grenoble whitethorn beryllium nan closest to a French Silicon Valley. In nary mini portion acknowledgment to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Louis Néel, nan Alpine city’s focus connected electronics turned it into a deep tech hub that’s now besides portion of nan speech connected some greenish tech and sovereign tech.

Grenoble startups that popular to mind see Verkor, which secured more than €2 billion for its gigafactory successful Northern France, and Renaissance Fusion, which raised $16.4 cardinal past twelvemonth to build atomic fusion exertion successful Europe. But Diamfab whitethorn benefirt much from its partnerships pinch larger players pinch section ties, including CEA, Schneider Electric, Soitec and STMicroelectronics.

There’s nary uncertainty that much semiconductors will travel retired of nan French Alps. As some nan EU and nan U.S. adopted Chip Acts to trim their dependency successful Asia, France is group to supply €2.9 cardinal successful aid for nan upcoming associated mill of STMicroelectronics and GlobalFoundries, and Soitec precocious opened a 4th factory nearby. Now Diamfab hopes it tin play a part, too, and unleash nan afloat imaginable of gem successful semiconductors.