Is it true that computer chips are made of sand?
How can something complex like the digital world be built from one of the most widely available materials?
For a moment, imagine a world without microchips. From cars to smartphones, MRI scanners to industrial robots and data centers, they are at the core of the devices we use for work, travel, fitness, and entertainment.
But what are they made of?
Let’s find out!
What’s A Microchip?
A microchip is a collection of electrical circuits on a tiny flat piece of silicon, also known as a chip, computer chip, integrated circuit, or IC.
Transistors act as tiny electrical switches on the chip that can turn a current on or off. A multilayered grid of linked forms is formed on the silicon wafer to create the pattern of microscopic switches.
There are microchips everywhere. More than 932 billion chips were produced globally in 2020, supporting a $440 billion market. Advances in chips have led to the creation of new products and the transformation of whole industries by offering higher performance, additional functionality, and reduced costs with each generation.
The chip industry prefers silicon as its material. In contrast to the metals that are often used to conduct electrical currents, silicon is a “semiconductor,” which means that its conductive characteristics may be improved by combining it with other substances like boron or phosphorus. Thanks to this, an electrical current may now be turned on or off.
It’s present almost everywhere, which is wonderful news! The second most common element on earth, after oxygen, is silicon, which is derived from sand. Silica sand, which is composed of silicon dioxide, is the type of sand used to make silicon wafers. An “ingot” is a huge cylinder that is created by melting sand. Later, tiny wafers made from this ingot are cut from it.
Powering Your Devices
The remarkable growth in processing power and memory capacity that has enabled technology to evolve to where it is now is the result of chip advances.
Thanks to semiconductors, computer power grew one trillion times between 1956 and 2015. Consider this: The Nintendo console’s computer was only about half as powerful as the one that guided the Apollo flights to the moon.
It contained 589.824 bits of read-only memory (ROM) and 32.768 bits of random access memory (RAM). The processing power of a contemporary smartphone is around 100,000 times more, and it has seven million times more ROM and a million times more RAM.
Chips support algorithms like those used in deep learning and allow applications like virtual reality and on-device artificial intelligence (AI), as well as improvements in data throughput like 5G connections.
A lot of data is generated by all this computation. The globe will produce 175 zettabytes (ZB) of data by 2025, which is roughly equal to one billion terabytes (TB).
The Semiconductor War
The United States has its sights set on Taiwan, a leader in the semiconductor industry that China has threatened to annex with force, amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The Biden administration has placed limitations on the sale of a number of cutting-edge computer chips to Russia and China because they can be used for military applications, according to US technology company Nvidia.
The USD 280 billion CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 is being put into effect thanks to an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden. To combat China’s expanding technical influence, this includes more than USD 52 billion in subsidies for US semiconductor producers.
China has rejected the new US chip law that seeks to assist regional semiconductor firms. According to Wang Wenbin, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the US’s new Chips and Science Act will upset global supply chains and hinder commerce.