EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — For more than 50 years silicon-based computer chips have been at the heart of new technology, from washing machines to space stations. 

For decades, this technology has just been getting better and better. People today expect products to be faster, lighter, and have a longer battery life than they did last year.

But now, researchers in a partnership between Michigan State University and Fraunhofer USA, an international research and development organization, could be nearing a breakthrough that could usher in a new generation of devices.

Scientists say they need tech like this because the current chip designs are about as good as they can get.

“Now we see we are really reaching the limits of what silicon can handle,” said Matthias Muehle, manager of the Diamond Technologies Division at Fraunhofer USA.  “So, for example, a lot of the charging infrastructure is using more modern materials like gallium nitride and silicon carbide simply on the fact that silicon wouldn’t really be able to handle the amount of current you have to put through.”

That’s why a team of researchers at MSU are working on a chip that can handle more information at faster speeds without getting hot.

The trick is that they need to make them out of lab-grown diamonds.

These new chips would end up being more powerful than anything else in the world and they will be strong enough to keep working in extreme conditions like mining, defense applications, and space exploration.

As chips like this get more testing, researchers say it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them everywhere.

“We believe that in 10 years diamond will be the likely contender for the next generation of devices that will do cool things like 6g and electrification of the country,” Muehle said.

Even further in the future, scientists say we will need devices like this to solve some of the biggest problems in the world, from climate change to artificial intelligence.

“There is also more and more energy consumption upcoming if we go into a more electrified future and for that, I think diamond will be among the most likely contenders,” Muehle said.

When that future does come, companies that make chips like these are expected to be some of the most profitable in the world, and researchers in Michigan are hoping the work being done here will put our state in a good position to take full advantage of the benefits.

“The question really is, ‘is Michigan going to keep that position to turn the R and D knowledge into manufacturing, Muehle said. “And I think right now, Michigan and the Lansing area have a really good hand of cards and we want to make sure it remains like that.”