Everyone knows Silicon Valley, but few know how the tech hub in San-Francisco earned its nickname? Silicon is a fundamental element used in almost everything in daily life—solar panels, concrete, and almost every electronic device use the element as its lifeblood. As silicon is the technological backbone of most of our devices it is important to know some of the key properties that contribute to its widespread use.
Silicon: The 14th Element on the Periodic Table
Silicon is one of the most chemically abundant elements on Earth. It is one of the largest elements found in the universe and makes up roughly 30% of the Earth’s crust. Silicon has unique properties that make it useful for a variety of practical purposes. Silicon’s useful properties are mostly due to its ability to bind bonding atoms very tightly and in complex arrangements.
Silicon: The Universal Semiconductor
Transistors are components in electronics that act as “switches.” Every electronic device uses a transistor to direct the pathway of electronic signals. For example, a memory chip uses transistors to control how data is stored and used by the computer. The key property that is needed in a computer transistor is resistance.
Chemical elements are typically separated into conductors, semiconductors and insulators. Conductors have low resistance meaning they can easily pass along an electric current, whereas insulators typically have high resistance and block the flow of electrons. Transistors are one of the most fundamental components of electronic devices and need to be able to switch on and off easily; therefore, they require a semiconductor or substance with a resistance level between that of an insulator and conductor. The best semiconductors are ones that can be transformed with a variety of chemical treatments, such as silicon wafer dicing, to fine-tune their resistance level.
Silicon and Modern Manufacturing
Modern computer chip manufacturing relies on growing perfect silicon crystals. These silicon crystals are then sliced into thin wafers and treated depending on the device they will power. The treated wafers are then diced into individual “die” and packaged into processors.
Silicon is one of the most valued elements in a wide range of industries. The unique element is used to create a variety of devices and products used in everyday life. Silicon is used in modern manufacturing due to its unique semiconductor properties that make it a great component in modern transistors. It is important to understand the way this unique element works to power the majority of the modern world.