How the Chips Found in All Our Electronics Are Manufactured

Hint: they're made of abundant silicon.
Loukia Papadopoulos

In the past, we have brought you news of Google using artificial intelligence to design computer chips in just six hours and the development of chips so tiny they are injectable. Indeed, the chip manufacturing industry is constantly growing and evolving to produce the components we find in almost all the electronics that surround us.

Under normal circumstances, microchips can take up to 26 weeks to make as they pack as many as 100 layers of billions of transistors in an area the size of a fingernail. Making them begins with silicon-rich sand. Why silicon? Silicon is a semiconductor whose properties can be altered by adding impurities, or ‘doping,’ to meet the needs of different electronic devices.

This also allows engineers to control the electrical signals that pass through. Silicon is also one of the 10 most common elements found on Earth meaning it is abundant enough to meet the many production needs of chip manufacturers.

What happens to this silicon? How does it need to be transformed to be used in chip manufacturing? What other elements are present in chips? How are they all brought together to build these near-ubiquitous components? We answer these questions and more in our video.

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