Here’s a little-known truth that no one ever thinks about – the work of a silicon wafer supplier is present everywhere around you. That’s right, most of us don’t realize it but much of the technology we use every day, from televisions to smartphones, would either not exist or look very different (and not in a good way) than it does today. One of the most important players in the advancement and miniaturization of technology has been the humble semiconductor. And no semiconductor has been more pivotal than silicon. So why are silicon wafer suppliers so important and why do we even need semiconductors anyway? That’s exactly what we will explore in this article.
‘Semiconductor’ is the term given to any material that has the quality of being able to transfer particles between two components at a rate between conductors and insulators. Generally, conductors tend to be metals while insulators are most ceramics.
So, you might be thinking – if electronics run on electricity, why not just use conductors? After all, why would you not want to facilitate the transfer of electricity from one place to another? To oversimplify the subject – computers work by sending signals from one point in a circuit to another. Turning these signals on and off in different patterns enables different functions in the device. If the two points were connected by an insulator, the current would not be able to get where it needs to be. If the two points were connected by a conductor, there would never be a way to make the currents stop. This is where semiconductors come in. We figured out that to regulate the current in a circuit effectively, we needed a device that would act like a damn or traffic light. After much trial and error, the transistor was invented to serve this exact purpose. Within the transistor lives the semiconductor and thanks to its properties, those currents can be regulated, enabling electronics to function effectively. This means that without semiconductors we would not have transistors, and without transistors, we might still be looking at the radio as the pinnacle of technological progress.
Silicon wafer suppliers have chosen this element thanks to some convenient properties that make it optimal for making semiconductors. For instance, silicon is one of the most abundant elements in the universe and makes up about 30% of the Earth’s crust. Although there are other more effective semiconductors like germanium, they are often rarer, more difficult to mine, and by extension, more expensive. Silicon is also a natural semiconductor that when properly refined, is one of the most effective at facilitating the transfer of electrons. This combination of factors makes silicon a cost-effective and reliable material for making semiconductors.
You might find it curious that all the pictures of semiconductors tend to be a similar rounded, wafer-like shape. There are two reasons for this; the manufacturing process and functionality.
Silicon wafer suppliers have multiple ways of making these components, but they all resemble the most popular approach – the Czochralski Growth Method. In essence, this process involves using a silicon seed crystal that is slowly dipped into a molten pool of silicon. Then the mechanical device holding the seed crystal begins to rotate while the vat of molten silicon rotates in the opposite direction. The seed crystal slowly begins to grow before it’s pulled out. The end result is a silicon ingot which is cylindrical. This explains the shape of wafers – since the ingot from which the wafers are cut is rounded, then it follows that the final cut will be a similar shape.
This reason might not be as clear as the manufacturing methods but it’s probably the most relevant. For starters, semiconductors are exposed to many physical and chemical processes that require high levels of heat, not to mention their intended purpose of facilitating the transfer of electric currents. Maintaining optimal function requires consistency across the entire structure of the semiconductor and it just so happens that flat circular shapes are more apt to do this. If square shapes were to be used, for instance, heat would accumulate on the edges which would compromise the function of the wafer. Furthermore, the circular shape of the wafers allows for more chips to be placed on its surface than with a rectangle. Simply put, if you have a rectangular object and a circular object which have the same perimeter (the area the surrounds or encompasses a shape), the circular object will have over 50% more surface area than the rectangular object. For practical reasons, the round shape of wafers lends itself better for producing electronics.
One of the most beneficial properties of silicon wafer suppliers is how effectively they can transfer electrons. We only need a very small amount of silicon to transfer the necessary electrical currents between circuits. How small are we talking, here? Almost inconceivably small. In fact, modern transistors produced by Intel are about 14 nanometers across. For reference, DNA molecules are only 14 times thinner than that. Because silicon can be sliced into increasingly thinner wafers without sacrificing its conductivity, it has enabled a huge leap forward in technology. Over time, we have created increasingly more powerful technology, with more capabilities, all while getting smaller and smaller. That’s why today you can hold more computing power in the palm of your hand than what was needed to get men to the moon. Behind all of these technological advancements have been the silicon wafer suppliers who play a key role in facilitating the production of this technology. This element has been so pivotal that the hub of the tech world carries the name Silicon Valley.
Wafer World is an industry leader in silicon wafer production thanks to our high-quality products and unparalleled knowledge about the field. Whether you are looking to learn more about semiconductor manufacturing or in search of your next silicon wafer supplier, you are already in the right place. Give us a call or request a quote today to get started!