The Silicon Supply Chain

October 26, 2021

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If you’re looking for silicon wafer suppliers, you may be wondering where silicon comes from. Below, we’ll explain which countries produce the most silicon, what it’s made from, and answer other frequently asked questions. We hope this helps as you endeavor to find a silicon wafer supplier that is right for your needs.

Closeup of a hand holding a wafer silicon Wafer suppliers

Which Countries Are the Largest Silicon Wafer Suppliers?

Silicon is produced throughout the world, but the following countries supply the majority of it:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Brazil
  • Norway
  • United States
  • France
  • Malaysia

China is far and away the biggest producer, responsible for mining 5,400,000 tons of the substance each year.

Where Does Silicon Come From?

Silicon is one of the most common elements found in the earth’s crust, second only to oxygen. It’s often mined in open pits or via dredging, but the environmental impact of this process is minimal.

This element can present in a couple different forms, but typically it’s silica sand. While this sand does have uses, such as on a sports field or during the glassmaking process, it often needs to be purified further.

The silicon used to create electronics needs to be incredibly pure, which is why the refinement process is so important in our field.

Which Environments Are Best Suited for Silicon Mining?

Because it can be found in the earth’s crust, silicon is accessible throughout most of the world.

One of the most important things that silicon-producing countries need is water. The process of making it ready for use involves a vast amount of water, which means that droughts can have a negative impact on silicon production.

Why Is There a Shortage of Silicon Chips?

Several major factors combined to cause the silicon chip shortage that we saw starting in 2020. First, COVID-19 had its negative impact on the supply chain, in some cases forcing businesses to shut down or put in place other measures which slowed production.

As there were problems with the manufacturing and supply chain side of things, there was also a spike in demand, which could probably be traced at least in part to the amount of time that people were spending at home.

There was also a specific issue that had nothing to do with COVID-19. A drought in Taiwan significantly reduced the area’s capacity to produce silicon, because they rely on extensive amounts of water that weren’t available in the area.

The issues on the supply side of things have largely been resolved, as investors have put in place plans to increase manufacturing capacity. That said, these plans take at least 18-24 months to come into effect, given how long it takes to start up a manufacturing facility.

This means that the shortage will continue through 2022 if demand continues to increase at its current level. Experts are divided on whether this will happen. If demand levels off, even just in certain areas, it should be much easier to get silicon products.

Are We Running Out of Silicon?

Silicon is one of the most common elements on earth, second only to oxygen. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why it’s the most popular material for making wafers.

Because it can be found in the earth’s crust, it can also be mined from all over the world. While supply chain issues have sometimes made it difficult for people to receive the silicon wafers they were looking to purchase, the shortage isn’t due to the silicon itself.

Is Silicon the Only Substance That Can Be Used to Make Wafers?

No, there are many different substances that can be used to produce wafers. These substances include:

  • Gallium
  • Arsenide
  • Germanium
  • Indium Phosphide
  • Sapphire
  • Quartz

Each material has its own unique properties, so it’s worth considering all your options when searching for wafers.

For example, GaAs wafers are made from both Gallium and Arsenide. They aren’t ideal for general use because they are more expensive to manufacture than silicon is. On the other hand, they provide qualities you can’t get from silicon, like electron mobility and higher moisture resistance.

If you’re unsure which chip is right for your needs, it’s worth speaking with a wafer supplier. They’ll be able to examine your wafer needs and determine the material best suited for the task(s).

Can Silicon Be Recycled?

For a long time, silicon hasn’t been recycled. This is difficult from an environmental perspective because of the amount of silicon that is used each year, some of which ends up in landfills when consumer products are thrown out.

That said, significant research has been done in this area, which means that silicon recycling is likely to become the norm in the future.

Is Silicon Used for Anything Other Than Electronics?

When most people think of silicon, they think of electronics, but the material has many uses outside of that industry. It can be used in the production of steel, cement, and more.

What Should You Look for From a Silicon Wafer Supplier?

There are numerous metrics you can use when determining which wafer supplier you want to work with. While the quality of the product needs to be paramount, you also want to ask an even more basic question: will they be able to ship their supply in a timely fashion?

This is one of the reasons why many US companies have been looking to buy more products made within the United States: there are simply less concerns about missing shipping containers.

You also want to work with reliable companies who have been in business for a long time. These are the companies that are most likely to have developed strong relationships over time, which means they’re more likely able to rely on their warehousing and shipping partners to follow through on commitments.

 Silicon Wafer suppliers and equipment

Looking for a Silicon Wafer Supplier?

If you’re looking for a wafer supplier, you’ve come to the right place. Located in Palm Beach County, we’ve been proudly marrying our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with our commitment to customer service for decades.

Whether you’re looking for silicon wafers or another wafer product entirely, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to request a quote.