Germanium Wafer | How Germanium Became Relevant to the Semiconductor Industry


January 29, 2020

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A germanium wafer is a semiconductor material that possesses superior crystallographic properties and excellent electric properties, which makes it suitable for infrared optics, solar cells, and sensor applications. In this article, we will discuss to you how the element germanium became relevant in the semiconductor industry.

How Did Germanium Become Relevant to the Semiconductor Industry?

A germanium wafer is made from the element Germanium. It is a lustrous, hard, yet brittle grayish-white metalloid. Because it rarely emerges in high concentration, germanium was discovered late.

The History of Germanium

People thought that germanium was poor in conducting metals until the late 1930s. It was only in the year 1945 when germanium's electronic semiconducting properties were recognized, making it economically significant. During WWII, germanium was used in several special electronic devices, which are mostly diodes. Its first major application was during the war when it was used to create the point-contact Schottky diodes for radar pulse detection. It was in the year 1948 when the germanium transistors were developed, which opened the door to various applications of solid-state electronics.

The First Uses of Alloys

In the year 1955, the first silicon-germanium alloys were achieved. By the end of the 1950s, the worldwide production of germanium reached up to 40 metric tons, while before the year 1945, only a few hundred kilograms of germanium were generated each year. From the 1950s until the early 1970s germanium was considered to be the most popular semiconductor material in the industry up until silicon was discovered.

The Discovery of Silicon and Uses Today

When silicon was discovered, it started replacing germanium in transistors, diodes, and rectifiers. But it required so much that could not be achieved during the early years of semiconductor electronics. Today, germanium is widely used for fiber optic communications networks, high-speed integrated circuits, and as a polymerization catalyst.

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