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Showing posts tagged 'graphene'


04 May 2022

semiconductors in space

flight-sky-earth-space

A post about semiconductors being used in space travel would be the perfect place to make dozens of space-themed puns, but let’s stay down to earth on this one.

There are around 2,000 chips used in the manufacture of a single electric vehicle. Imagine, then, how many chips might be used in the International Space Station or a rocket.

Despite the recent decline in the space semiconductor market, it’s looking likely that in the next period there will be a significant increase in profit.

What effect did the pandemic have?

The industry was not exempt from the impact of the shortage and supply chain issues caused by covid. Sales decreased and demand fell by 14.5% in 2020, compared to the year-on-year growth in the years previous.

Due to the shortages, many companies within the industry delayed launches and there was markedly less investment and progress in research and development. However, two years on, the scheduled dates for those postponed launches are fast approaching.

The decline in investment and profit is consequently expected to increase in the next five years. The market is estimated to jump from $2.10 billion in 2021 all the way up to $3.34 billion in 2028. This is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.89%.

What is being tested for the future

In the hopes of ever improving the circuitry of spaceships there are several different newer technologies currently being tested for use in space travel.

Some component options are actually already being tested onboard spacecrafts, both to emulate conditions and to take advantage of the huge vacuum that is outer space. The low-pressure conditions can emulate a clean room, with less risk of particles contaminating the components being manufactured.

Graphene is one of the materials being considered for future space semiconductors. The one-atom-thick semiconductor is being tested by a team of students and companies to see how it reacts to the effects of space. The experiments are taking place with a view to the material possibly being used to improve the accuracy of sensors in the future.

Two teams from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are currently looking at the use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) in space too. This, and other wide bandgap semiconductors show promise due to their performance in high temperatures and at high levels of radiation. They also have the potential to be smaller and more lightweight than their silicon predecessors.

GaN on Silicon Carbide (GaN on SiC) is also being researched as a technology for amplifiers that allows satellites to transmit at high radio frequency from Earth. Funnily enough, it’s actually easier to make this material in space, since the ‘clean room’ vacuum effect makes the process of epitaxy – depositing a crystal substrate on top of another substrate – much more straightforward.

To infinity and beyond!

With the global market looking up for the next five years, there will be a high chance of progress in the development of space-specialised electronic components. With so many possible advancements in the industry, it’s highly likely it won’t be long before we see pioneering tech in space.

To bring us back down to Earth, if you’re looking for electronic components contact Cyclops today to see what they can do for you. Email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

Tags: semiconductors space travel chips graphene national aeronautics space administration nasa gallium nitride satellites


02 March 2022

Could Graphene be used in semiconductors?

Graphene

A new discovery

Graphene was first isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004. Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov were experimenting on a Friday night (as you do) and found they could create very thin flakes of graphite using sticky tape. When separating these fragments further, they found they could produce flakes that were one atom thick.

Geim and Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their ground-breaking experiments in 2010, and since the two had first identified the material since the 60s it had been a long time coming.

Despite its thinness Graphene is extremely strong, estimated to be 200 times stronger than steel

Is silicon outdated?

Semiconductors are inextricably linked to Moore’s Law, which is the principle that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every year. But that observation Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made in 1965 is now losing speed.

Silicon chips will very soon reach their limit and will be unable to hold any additional transistors, which means that future innovation will require a replacement material. Graphene, with its single-atom thickness, is a contender.

In 2014 hardware company IBM devoted $3 billion to researching replacements for silicon as it believed the material would become obsolete. The company said as chips and transistors get smaller, as small as the current average of 7 nanometers (nm), the integrity of silicon is more at risk.

IBM revealed its new 2nm tech last year, which can hold 50 billion transistors on a single silicon chip, so the material is not going obsolete just yet.

Disadvantages

Graphene is nowhere close to being a replacement for silicon, it is still in the development stage and the cost of implementing it into supply chain would be extensive. A lot more research and adjustment is required, and it would have to be introduced step by step to avoid prices skyrocketing and supply chains breaking down.

Graphene is not the only contender to be the replacement for silicon either. Carbon nanotubes are fighting for prominence, and other 2D materials like molybdenum disulfide and tungsten disulfide are also vying for the position.

Another disadvantage of Graphene is that there is no bandgap, which means the semiconductor can’t be switched off. The possibly jagged edges of the material could also pierce the cell membranes which may disrupt functions.

Other applications

Thanks to its 2D properties Graphene is also being studied for its potential uses in other areas. In relation to semiconductors there has been research from Korea on the uses of graphene as a filtration device for semiconductor wastewater. The oxide-based nanofiltration membranes could remove ammonium from the wastewater created by semiconductor production so it can then be recycled. As a wider application of this Graphene could be used as a filtration device for water or to remove gas from a gas-liquid mixture.

Graphene is also being researched for its uses in the biomedical field, which include being a platform for drug delivery, bone tissue engineering, and ultrasensitive biosensors to detect nucleic acids. Graphene has other sensor-based uses, because the sensors can be made in micrometre-size they could be made to detect events on a molecular level, and could be of use in agriculture and smart farming.

There is a possibility Graphene could be combined with paint to weather-proof or rust-proof vehicles and houses, and to coat sports equipment. It also could have potential within the energy field for extending the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries.

When can we expect change?

Consultation company McKinsey estimated there would be three phases to the implementation of Graphene, none of which have begun just yet. Phase one would be to use Graphene as an ‘enhancer’ of existing technology, and will simply improve other devices by extending the lifespan or improving the conduction. This phase is estimated to last for ten years, after which phase two will begin. In this step graphene will become a replacement for silicon and will be the next step in the improvement of semiconductors and electronics. After 25 years we can expect the next step in graphene applications, things we can only dream of now.

In the meantime, people will still be using silicon-based semiconductors for quite a while. If you’re on the lookout for chips, or any other day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, contact Cyclops today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

Tags: graphene silicon chips transistors ibm obsolete supply chain semiconductor semiconductor wastewater.


16 February 2022

The European Chips Act and its impact on electronic component sales

European Union flag

Semiconductors are vital for our day-to-day life. They are in all the electronics you own but are also in your kitchen appliances, your car, your electric shower and many more. But what if we lost access to these components?

The huge reliance on imported semiconductors was made abundantly clear last year. Europe’s current share of the global semiconductor market is only about 10%, and the continents is otherwise dependent on supply from abroad.

The need for independence and autonomy in the European chip market has been made very apparent due to factors like Brexit and COVID-19.

The European Chips Act was first mentioned in the EU’s 2021 State of Union Letter of Intent, calling the act a key initiative for 2022. The EU created the Industrial Alliance for Processors and Semiconductor Technologies alongside it, to plan and oversee progress on the act.

One of the aims of the alliance is to increase Europe’s share in global chip production to 20% by 2030, but they will first have to identify issues with the market and map out a way to improve design and production.

During the ‘State of the World’ Special Address by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on January 20, the chips act was mentioned once again, and they announced draft legislation for the chips act is due in February of this year.

The European Commission president said that there would be five steps taken to improve the chip sector, and that they would focus on research first, then design and manufacturing. After these there would be an adaptation of state aid rules to increase provisions in case of shortage.  Lastly, she said the EU would work to support smaller, innovative technology companies.

In 2020 the United States accounted for the largest share in the semiconductor industry, with 47%. Following the US was South Korea with 20% of the market. China’s share has also increased quickly in recent years, putting it narrowly behind Korea. Despite Japan previously having a larger share in the market, they are currently on equal footing with Europe with a share of around 10%.

Despite no longer being a member of the EU, and therefore not directly signing the Chips Act, the UK could also have the potential to increase its standing in the global semiconductor race.

According to some UK-based chipmakers, the country has an advantage in the area of research and development. If research facilities like the University of Manchester were given the right attention and funding, they could develop sustainable resources like graphene to replace mined silicon in processors.

The UK electronics sector will always be considerably smaller than huge countries like China and America, but with significant investment they would have the ability to make a difference in the current chip shortage. And Cyclops is a perfect example of a smaller company making a big difference.

Cyclops is an electronic component distributor with a wealth of contacts from all over the world. With unrivalled stock and suppliers, Cyclops will put you ahead of your competitors. Contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

Tags: electronics electronic components european chips act global chip production graphene silicon


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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