The Role of Silicon in Computers


August 12, 2015

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There is a reason that the region in central California is called Silicon Valley.Silicon has been a he very heart of computing from the very first days and the very first inventions of computer chips. Silicon has been the element of choice primarily for its semiconducting qualities.

What does Silicon Do?

Silicon is the foundation for all of the circuitry that goes into each and every computerized device made – from smartphones to tablets to desktops to microwaves to your car.Silicon has the role of helping conduct electrical current and sending it through the various circuits so the computerized device can do all of the functions it is supposed to handle. It is quite stable and reliable, which means that current will be able to be turned on and off reliably as functions are needed or not needed.However, silicon is not the best material for conducting current. It is only used because of its abundance and therefore its cost of production. It is a very cheap material because it is so readily available, which allows many of our devices to be so affordable in general.

If Not Silicon, then What Else?

How does Germanium Valley sound?If you were to take many other factors into consideration besides cost of production and availability, you would find that silicon does not rate as highly as an option for electronic circuits. It actually has a lower-grade ability to conduct current. Germanium and gallium arsenide are two semiconducting materials that are more efficient and effective with electric currents, but they are far more expensive because of productive costs and the relative lack of availability.These are very strong materials for current, however, and some of these materials are being used in limited quantities for certain high-level electronics like solar panels and some high-speed devices that are part of a new generation.

Are There Alternatives?

Scientists are currently looking into some compromises – finding was to extract the same high-current results from germanium on a relatively cheap material like silicon. What is being worked on now is a germanium or gallium arsenide overlay, where the transistors and circuitry are etched into a wafer of germanium and is overlaid on a silicon wafer.The process isn’t finalized yet, but the results have shown to be very promising, There could be a way in the near future for electronics to have a silicon base but have the electric current produced by a less-resistant material, increasing the power of devices to levels we haven’t seen, while still keeping the devices relatively affordable for mass audiences.