As the world becomes more dependent on its smart devices to remain connected, the demand for thin silicon wafers is predicted to approach $10 billion dollars by 2023. How important are these wafers? Without them, you wouldn’t be reading this. You also wouldn’t have a computer, cell phone or any device requiring a circuit board. All of them exist because of silicon wafers and their remarkable ability to conduct electricity.
Where Silicon Comes From
When ordinary sand is heated in a coke-burning furnace, it becomes silicon. Sand is scientifically known as silica oxide and silica is the second-most common element in the Earth’s crust. And in its pure form, silicon doesn’t melt until reaching a temperature of 2,577 degrees Fahrenheit (1,414 degrees Celsius).
Why Silicon Makes the Best Semiconductors
If you peel back the insulation on most electrical cords, you’re likely to find copper wiring inside. Among metals, copper is second only to silver as an efficient electrical conductor. The higher the temperature is, however, the less conductive it becomes. The same is true for all metals. But silicon is neither a metal nor a non-metal. It’s a metalloid, so heat increases its conductivity.
Thin Silicon Wafers
Silicon wafers are simply thin slices of silicon available in different thicknesses and diameters. Depending on their intended use, they can be laser-diced into dozens or hundreds of smaller units. A state-of-the-art thin silicon wafers manufacturer can produce these wafers in any diameter and polish them to less than 200 microns thick. That’s about 4 times the thickness of a human hair!
Reclaimed Silicon Wafers
To save money, many semi-conductor makers use “test” silicon wafers to monitor or their equipment. They then ship them to a silicon wafer maker for reclaiming. This multi-step process can be repeated times to restore the test wafers for re-use. With consumer and industrial demand for semiconductor-powered devices growing every day, the future for top-tier manufacturers of thin silicon wafers has never been brighter!