Omnipresent, semiconductors power everything, not only on this earth but also in space where human civilization has succeeded in marking its mark.
From computing devices to smart devices, from automobiles to healthcare equipment, from data centers to satellites in space, semiconductors drive every electronic device and every innovation.
Although you may not connect with the term semiconductors, you may have heard of chips, microchips or integrated circuits – after all, they are the brains of all modern electronic devices.
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Krishna Moorthy, President and CEO, IESA, explains it in simple language. “Semiconductor is a small electronic device in various forms that is used either to power equipment that we use, or to control equipment in its function, or to process information and data in such a way that our eyes and our ears can use this information,” he says.
And there is no rule as to how many chips go into a single product. There’s also no cap on the type of chips going into a device. All this varies according to the nature of the product.
For example, a simple electric toothbrush contains a chip to control motor speed, just like an electric razor or a toy. A smartphone can have more than a dozen different chips.
But when it comes to a mid-size car, we have up to 10 processor chips and around 30-40 semiconductor chips, and technologically advanced cars can have over a hundred chips – l ignition uses power supply devices, an LED panel in the front of the driver uses a semiconductor for audio and video signal processing and presents it in a usable way, and there are many processor chips in the car that control the operation of the engine and other internal systems and thus guarantee its optimum performance.
If you consider a very high-end defense communications system, it may have hundreds or even thousands of parts. And a spacecraft can have many more. Their complexity and technologies are very different.
But given the number of processes, countries and companies involved, manufacturing semiconductors is a time-consuming and tedious task. “It depends on the complexity of the chips. From conceptualization to actual production, it can take between 15 and 18 months. For other less complex chips, it takes around 8-12 months for the final product,” explains Balajee Sowrirajan. , MD, SSRIs.
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Made from pure elements, usually silicon or germanium, or compounds such as gallium arsenide, small amounts of impurities are added to these pure elements in the process called doping, causing large changes in the material conductivity.
And these chips have an electrical circuit with many components such as transistors and wiring on a semiconductor wafer. Moreover, there is not just one semiconductor that is suitable for each product.
With innumerable chip types going into various devices, these are primarily categorized into memory chips, microprocessors, standard chips, and complex system-on-chips (SoCs), and when organized by IC types, they are digital, analog and mixed.
And to help understand the magnitude, read this – a single semiconductor chip has as many transistors as all the stones of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and today there are over 100 billion integrated circuits in use daily in the world – this is equal to the number of stars in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy, writes SIA.
After these wafers are printed, the chips are shipped to test facilities such as Amkor Technology Philippines, Inc. in the Philippines and Unisem Group in Malaysia for testing and packaging.
Here, the chips on the wafer that don’t work are discarded and those that are working are then sorted, cut and packaged.
After packaging, there is another round of testing, and the final chips are sent back to companies such as Intel, Micron, MediaTek, Saankhya Labs to name a few, who then ship them to their customers (OEM) who put them into the final product.
Although you may think that India is missing from this global ecosystem, that is not really the case. Leading chip companies like Intel, Micron, NXP, SSRI among others have their R&D facility in India, leveraging the engineering talent pool of our country.