Semiconductors power the 21st century, and has time has gone on, they’ve become increasingly niche. From double side polish wafer and microelectronic semiconductors all the way to the occasional vacuum tube, it seems there are countless ways and reasons to power devices.
Luckily, there are many materials out there with semiconductive properties, which means there are many different materials that can be used to make semiconductors. Today, we want to break down some of the most popular wafer materials, as well as explain how you can determine which one best suits your needs.
Silicon is a popular wafer material for several reasons. One of the most important is just how common it is: along with being the second-most common element on the planet, it’s also the seventh-most common element in the universe.
This makes it easier to procure than many other semiconductor elements. Additionally, the fact that it’s used so often to make semiconductors means that the processes for creating silicon semiconductors are extremely advanced.
It can do the job in many situations, but it isn’t always the most efficient material. Even though the costs are low and it’s more durable than some other materials, it doesn’t always work as efficiently as some other materials.
It can also be brittle and more wasteful than some other materials.
Germanium has a higher electron count than silicon, as well as having more electron mobility. This means it can move current faster and with greater energy efficiency. It was actually used for semiconductors before silicon, though silicon has now vastly overtaken it in terms of popularity.
Its properties mean that it is still the primary choice for thermal imaging devices, as well as gamma-ray spectroscopy.
If you choose to get germanium wafers, it’s important to note that it can’t withstand temperatures as high as silicon can. Whereas silicon can withstand temperatures up to 180° C, germanium doesn’t perform as well once you go past 70° C.
Germanium has some uses you may not even think of. For instance, it’s used in both metallurgy and chemotherapy.
GaAs has a direct band gap, as opposed to silicon’s indirect band gap. This allows it to both absorb and release light better than silicon. It is also more resistive than silicon, which means it can help create insulation when paired with a highly-conductive material.
These properties mean that it’s often used for laser diodes, MESFET transistors, and more.
If you choose to get GaAs wafers, it’s important to note that they will likely be more expensive than silicon wafers. They also have much less electron-hole mobility than silicon.
Like GaAs, InP has a direct band gap. This makes it useful for electronics that require high frequencies or high power.
Much like GaAs, it’s often used in laser diodes. If you choose to get InP wafers, it’s important to note that they are more expensive than GaAs wafers.
Sapphire is an extremely durable material that can withstand all kinds of damage. It’s especially resistant to scratches and temperature. For these reasons, it’s often used in harsh environments that would cause problems for other materials.
Of course, sapphire is also extremely expensive. When sapphire is used, it is often paired with silicon. This is because sapphire’s insulative properties pair well with silicon’s conductive properties.
Of course, it’s very important to be confident in your choice of semiconductor material, given the long lead times and high costs associated with semiconductor manufacturing.
If you’re concerned, it can be useful to determine what materials other semiconductor manufacturers use in similar industries. For instance, sapphire semiconductors are popular for their photovoltaic capabilities.
This means you’re more likely to use them if creating semiconductors for solar panels than you are if you’re creating them for a desktop computer.
Along with this, it is of course always useful to speak with a trustworthy wafer supplier. The more years of experience they have, the more you can trust on their ability to understand all the possibilities available in the market.
They’re also likely to have more stable relationships with their suppliers.
It’s important to note that the wafer material you choose could impact the rest of the supply chain. For instance, we’ve previously discussed the silicon supply chain. Even though it’s an extremely common element in earth’s crust, it’s mined more in some areas than others.
When finalizing the wafer material, it’s worth considering which countries it’s mined in. You can then determine whether you’ll be able to rely on a regular supply, even in the face of things like the Russia-Ukraine War.
Of course, if you’re trying to maximize efficiency, wafer material is just one of many aspects you can focus on. It’s also useful to consider whether your organization could benefit from:
You’ve come to the right place. At Wafer World, we work with semiconductor companies to ensure they get the wafers they need. We’ve been in this industry for decades, so you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.
Do you have any questions about what we can do for you? Would you like to ask for a quote on a wafer material you can’t find on our website. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re excited to speak with you!