What are semiconductors?

Having grown up as an advertising agency for industrial customers, we have been at home in the world of electronic components for years. Sensors, microcontrollers, security components etc. have become increasingly important in recent years because they are the core components of all electronic devices and there is a shortage of semiconductors. They control everything from toothbrushes to cars, convert solar energy into electricity, form the basis of artificial intelligence and ensure energy efficiency, convenience and safety in almost all areas of our everyday lives. But what exactly are semiconductors?

Semiconductors are the basic material of the chips

The term semiconductor is often used to describe electronic chips or ICs. But that’s not quite right – because semiconductors are actually the material from which chips are made. The special feature of this material – silicon, for example – is that it is a “hermaphrodite” in terms of electrical conductivity: In its initial state, there are no free electrons in it – it then exhibits properties such as non-conductors or insulators. However, if it is exposed to certain external influences such as temperature or light, electrons are released from the atoms, allowing current to flow. The semiconductor takes on the properties of a conductor. This is the basis for components that can be used to control currents. They can in turn be interconnected to form complex circuits (e.g. transistors) in order to process commands and store data.

Small components with a big impact

The structures that are formed in the process are tiny: state-of-the-art production technologies can achieve 2 nanometers! For comparison: a human hair is around 70,000 nanometers thick. This means that 50 billion transistors can be accommodated on a chip the size of a fingernail.

Functional principle of semiconductors

They can perform a wide variety of tasks: As processors, they perform the central computing and control tasks in computers. Other chips store data or convert analog signals (such as sound) into electrical signals, convert electrical energy or measure microscopically small movements.

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