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Showing posts tagged 'graphene'


23 June 2021

Semiconductor production capacity expected to hit records highs in 2021

new electronic component image

As you probably know, we are in the middle of a global semiconductor shortage. Auto manufacturers are cutting jobs, brands are delaying the release of new products, and people are struggling to buy things like games consoles.

It’s a grim situation predicted to last a few years, but behind the scenes, semiconductor companies are preparing to come out of the chip shortage swinging.

In fact, it’s predicted that semiconductor production capacity will reach a record high in 2021 so long as additional production lines are completed. This is reliant on production lines coming online following investments made at the beginning of 2018.

According to industry forecasts, next year, another 10 production lines for 300mm silicon wafers will be added worldwide. These will contribute millions of semiconductors each year, helping to release some pressure on demand.  

IC Insights also provides the following forecasts for chips: “By 2024, the average annual growth rate of semiconductor production capacity will be 5.9%. Compared with the average annual increase rate (5.1%) of semiconductor production capacity in the past 5 years (2014 ~ 2019), the growth rate slightly increased.”

Record demand for chips

The semiconductor market is experiencing record demand across all sectors. Chip manufacturers are struggling to keep up, but they are investing in new production lines to meet predicted demand several years from now.

The latest report from IC Insights' McClean Report says that the semiconductor market will shake off the Covid-19 pandemic with 13% growth in 2021.

Semiconductor unit shipments are expected to hit 1,135.3 billion in 2021, fuelled by chips that target connected devices, VR and AR, network and cloud computing systems, contactless payment systems, automotive electronics including autonomous systems and consumer electronics including smartphones.

As technology advances and the world becomes more digital and more connected, chip demand will increase ten-fold over the next few years.

Semiconductor manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand now but there are signs of life as the IC Insights’ report demonstrates.

The world’s biggest chip companies, including TSMC, UMC, SMIC, Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix are going to play a leading role in how technologies roll out long into the future. There should be no doubt these companies will power our future.

What next for semiconductors?

The prices of semiconductors are expected to increase by 20% in 2021 due to a shortage in production capacity and higher silicon prices.

However, the future may not be silicon at all. Graphene chips are 100 times smaller than silicon chips and thousands of times faster. This technology is in its infancy but it’s showing great promise. We expect big things in the next decade.

We also expect the semiconductor shortage to persist until 2022. Shortages should lift beyond this as production capacity increases from new production lines. Chip makers will need to manage supply and demand better in the future. The current shortage is bad news for everyone. Thankfully, it won’t last forever. Of this we’re certain.

Tags: global semiconductor shortage chip shortage tsmc umc smic samsung micron and sk hynix graphene chips


03 March 2021

New construction of the smallest microchips using graphene nano-origami

nano chip

Material science and clever engineering has cut the space between components on microchips to nanometres. This has led to significant performance benefits because more components can fit on the chip.

However, there is a limit to how small things can go with current chip design. 7nm is as small as chips will go from here based on existing technology. Why? Because 7nm is the gap between components on a chip. This space is tiny. Going smaller isn’t feasible because we’re working with spaces that are too small.

It’s also incredibly expensive. Prototyping a 7nm chip costs around £80 million and there are only a handful of companies that can do it.

Graphene 'nano-origami' to the rescue

Graphene is a nanomaterial one atom thick. It has been talked about as a revolutionary material for over a decade and now experimental researchers have used it to develop the world’s tiniest microchips using a form of ‘nano-origami’.

The world’s tiniest microchips are 100 times smaller than silicon chips and thousands of times faster. The way they work is instead of having transistors on them, the graphene has kinks in the structure and these kinks act as the transistors.

On this breakthrough, Prof Alan Dalton in the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences at the University of Sussex, said:

"We're mechanically creating kinks in a layer of graphene. It's a bit like nano-origami. Using these nanomaterials will make our computer chips smaller and faster.

It is absolutely critical that this happens as computer manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconducting technology. Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future.”

Is graphene the future of microchips?

Researchers are calling this breakthrough nano-origami technology "straintronics". It uses nanomaterials as opposed to electronics, eliminating the need for electronic components on the chip. This makes the chips 100 times smaller.

Another benefit to graphene microchips is speed. Graphene conducts electricity 250 times faster than silicon. In fact, it conducts electricity faster than any known substance. It truly is a ‘space-age’ nanomaterial for today.

Instead of building microchips with foreign materials like transistors, researchers have shown another way of doing things. By creating kinks in graphene, structures can be made that replace electronic components including transistors and logic gates.

Another benefit to graphene nano-origami is sustainability. No additional materials are added during the manufacturing process. Production also takes place at room temperature as opposed to high temperature with silicon chips.

The truth is that silicon microchips cannot feasibly go below 7nm. The next step in performance evolution with silicon chips will come from heat management and power density. Graphene is smaller, faster and just as capable. The next step is for manufacturers to develop the technology and take it to market.

Overall, while the immediate future is silicon, we are in no doubt that graphene is the future of microchips. It has too many performance advantages to ignore.   

Tags: graphene nano-origami microchips nanometres straintronics sustainability


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