Why Is There a Shortage of Silicon Chips?

Silicon chips are a type of integrated circuit that is the primary electronic component of computing devices. The chips are mainly made from silicon (as the name suggests), which is the second most abundant element on the earth. In the last few years, there has been a significant shortage of silicon chips across the world. In this article, we explain the reasons why and the effects of this shortage.

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Why are Silicon Chips So Important?

Silicon is a material highly valued for its properties of semiconduction and how widely available it is across the world. The chips are the most critical element of many electronic devices we use today including tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

How Silicon Chips Are Made

Silicon wafers are small slices of purified silicon arranged in a grid formation. When the silicon is initially purified, melted, and cooled to create ingots. These ingots are then sliced into wafers and the process of doping begins. Doping is a process involving the addition of particular impurities to remove dirt that may build up throughout the cutting process.

So What’s Happened to the Silicon Chips?

In 2021, it became increasingly difficult to get hold of PS5 consoles, certain cars, and smartphones. Silicon chips are produced using either 200mm or 300mm wafers with the larger wafers being more expensive and used for more advanced devices. 

There has been a steep rise in the demand for lower-cost chips which facilitate a huge range of consumer products, resulting in the 200mm technology being in higher demand than ever before. 

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the demand for computer chips was unpredictable,  leading to some companies stockpiling and advance ordering of the components, meaning other organizations were unable to acquire them. Additionally, factories producing the chips shut down in the early stages of the pandemic to allow them to organize PPE and social distancing. 

Some extreme weather conditions in Texas and a fire in Japan have also meant that semiconductor factories have had to shut down temporarily, having a wider impact on the global market.

When Will Things Improve?

In recent months there has been an improvement in the prospects of silicon chip production with manufacturers operating at a higher capacity than usual. 

Gold-Coated Silicon Wafers from Platypus Tech

Silicon wafers are used as the underlying surface for many integrated chips and hard drive devices. Coating these with gold can engineer them for use with electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. 

Platypus tech is at the forefront of the development of custom gold-coated silicon wafers for microscopy and electrochemistry. If you would like to find out more about our silicon wafers and their use in silicon chips, get in touch with the team at Platypus Tech today.