Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne researchers develop two new diamond inventions

By Jared SagoffOctober 10, 2014

ARGONNE, IL — Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have continued their research into advanced ultrananocrystalline diamond technologies and have developed two new applications for this special material.

Ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) thin films have shown a great deal of promise in the semiconductor and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) industries. Recently, a team led by Argonne nanoscientist Ani Sumant at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) demonstrated the extraordinary piezoresistive properties of boron-doped ultrananocrystalline diamond, when it is fabricated at the nanoscale. Piezoresistivity measures the change in a material’s electrical resistance as a function of applied mechanical strain.

“These nanoscale structures are very sensitive to applied strain, which opens the possibility of fabricating better pressure/displacement or tactile sensors,” said Argonne technology development and commercialization advisor William Alberth. “More importantly, they’re environmentally stable, which means we can put them into harsh environments and expect that they perform well. This is a significant advantage over conventional silicon-based piezoresistive sensors, in which their performance degrades at elevated temperatures. The biocompatibility of diamond adds another important aspect to this technology as well.”

Argonne researchers are also investigating adding nanodiamond particles to the cathode of lithium-ion batteries in combination with other carbon materials in order to improve the thermal conductivity of the material.  This improves the ability to remove heat from the battery system. “Getting heat out of the battery is tremendously important for hybrid and electric vehicles,” Alberth said. This particular work is being carried out with researchers from Nanofabrication and Nano-bio groups at CNM, researchers at Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division and collaborators from the University of California-Riverside.

The research to develop these inventions was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more, visit

The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale, supported by the DOE Office of Science.  Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.  The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

For more information on any of these technologies, contact Jared Sagoff at or 630-252-5549.