What are semiconductors and how are they used?
A new panel has been formed to guide the UK’s semiconductor industry, which it describes as “vital to our modern society”.
To boost the sector, governments have passed new laws and spent large sums of money around the world.
Here is a more detailed explanation of semiconductors’ importance.
Modern manufacturing relies heavily on semiconductors, also known as microchips or integrated circuits.
In a process called doping, tiny fragments of raw materials, such as silicon, are altered to sometimes conduct electricity and sometimes not.
As an electronic switch, they communicate in binary, the language of 1s and 0s that drives computing.
Modern microchips can contain as many transistors as all the stones in the Great Pyramid in Giza, despite being incredibly small. The advanced electronic systems that power our modern lives require a lot of 1s and 0s, as well as massive amounts of processing power.
In addition to being small and powerful, semiconductors are also incredibly valuable – they are part of a $500bn (£401bn) industry that is expected to double by 2030.
Modern computers, such as smartphones and laptops, rely heavily on semiconductors.
Additionally, they are in routers, switches, and communication infrastructures that form the backbone of the internet.
Semiconductors are also crucial to sustainability. Solar farms and wind turbines use them.
In the healthcare industry, they are found in medical devices and equipment as well as implantable technology, such as pacemakers and insulin pumps.
According to Jo Shien Ng, professor of semiconductor devices at Sheffield University, semiconductors play a critical role in critical infrastructure in all modern societies.
One example is modern vehicles with electronic control systems, remote car keys, anti-lock braking systems, and rear-view cameras.