Semi Conductors: The What, Why, And How

Semi conductors, or chips, are the heart and soul of the electronics manufacturing industry. By starting with a material that partially conducts electricity, then doping it with small amounts of metal compounds, a fully conductive material can be created and manipulated. The use of these materials is widespread in the field of electronics design and production. The manufacture of chips is an extremely delicate process due to the high-tech and fragile nature of the circuitry that is eventually attached. The control that the chips offer makes them the most demanded aspect of the electronics business, as no modern semi conductor chip, transistor, or LED is possible without one.

Semi conductors are a solid material, most often silicon, which exhibits insulating characteristics but very little conductivity. The doping process, or adding of other elements known as impurities, turns the partially conductive element into in a conductor. Depending upon the type of impurities added, the chip can be negative (N-type) or positive (P-type). The magic happens when these two are combined to form the most basic semi conductor device in the business, the diode. While silicon is not the only base semi conducting material, it is the most frequently used for microprocessor chips that drive modern electronic devices.

The uses of a semi conductor are basic in the sense that they fulfill a role in the distribution and flow of electricity. The material is used as a bridge for a continuous flow of electrons through a junction, exponentially expanding the possibilities of the technology. Alone, the electrons inside silicon and germanium are evenly numbered and will adhere to a corresponding atom, forming a perfect covalent bond. They form a lattice in which there are no free roaming electrons. The desired effect, on the other hand, is the ability to have conductivity when and how it is needed. This is where doping kicks in.

Semi conductors are made by first growing the crystals that would form the base material. These cylindrical units are called ingots. The ingots are sliced into thin wafers and polished by automated systems for efficiency and accuracy. The wafers are then imprinted using photolithography, etched with acids, then set with conductors. After a chemical bath for treating the texture, the imprinting process begins again until the program is complete. The wafers are cut in a clean room under strict conditions to prevent microscopic damage to the sensitive circuitry of the chips.

The impact that semi conductors have had on the world has been revolutionary. They replaced the vacuum tubes of old in a way that is mind-boggling to consider. One single IC replaces an entire building full of vacuum tubes that would need a dedicated electrical power plant just to run it. That is the textbook example of consolidation technology and nano-science as a whole.

The more researchers learn about the properties of particular compounds, the more streamlined the processes will become. The production of N-type and P-type chips provide the vast control demands made by electronics manufacturers. As technology plays leap-frog off existing knowledge, the basic materials, production methods, and applications of semi conductors will only grow. The electronics industry will continue driving towards innovation and effective solutions for current limitations.