Earlier this month, the Commerce Department enacted new export controls on technologies related to the production of advanced semiconductors and gas turbine engines that are considered critical to US national security.
The export controls are on “emerging and foundational technologies,” including gallium oxide and diamond since devices using these materials “have significantly increased military potential,” the Commerce Department explained.
According to Commerce Undersecretary for Industry and Security Alan Estevez, these technological advancements used in semiconductors and engines to make them operate faster, longer, and more efficiently can, in “more severe conditions” be “game changers in both the commercial and military context.”
The US, working with “international partners” reached a consensus in December 2021 on what technologies should be controlled.
However, the US export controls go beyond those from the December agreement, covering a broader range of technologies, including additional equipment and software, in addition to technology used to produce semiconductors.
Gallium oxide and diamond are used to allow semiconductors to operate under more severe conditions like higher temperatures or at higher voltages. Devices utilizing gallium oxide and diamond “have significantly increased military potential,” Commerce said.
The Commerce Department export controls include ECAD, a group of software tools used in validating integrated circuits or printed circuit boards that are used to advance both commercial and military applications, including in defense and communications satellites.
In a June 2021 report, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission found the Commerce Department wasn’t doing enough to prevent sensitive technology from falling into the hands of the Chinese military. According to the report, the lag in developing a list of emerging and foundational technologies required by a 2018 law might have exacerbated national security risks.