Science & Tech

Semiconductor Technology: What will India manufacture?

Despite recent failures, such as Foxconn Technology Group’s departure from a joint venture with Vedanta, Ltd., India remains devoted to its semiconductor objectives.

What exactly are Semiconductors?

  • Semiconductors are materials with a unique property of electrical conductivity that fall between conductors and insulators.
  • Semiconductors, as opposed to conductors, which enable electricity to flow freely through them, and insulators, which do not conduct electricity at all, have an intermediate amount of electrical conductivity.

Semiconductors have the following key characteristics:

  • Semiconductors conduct electricity more effectively than insulators but not as effectively as conductors. Their conductivity can be adjusted and controlled.
  • The energy band gap in semiconductors divides the valence band, where electrons are strongly bound, from the conduction band, where electrons can flow more freely. This band gap is smaller than in insulators but more than in conductors.
  • Temperature Dependence: The conductivity of semiconductors varies greatly with temperature. Their electrical conductivity increases as the temperature rises.
  • Doping: Impurities can be artificially doped into semiconductors to change their electrical characteristics. Doping introduces extra charge carriers, either electrons or holes, which can either increase or decrease conductivity.

Transistors and Semiconductors

  • Composition of a Semiconductor Chip: A semiconductor chip is made up of transistors made of materials such as silicon. Transistors encode data as 0s and 1s and then alter them to generate new data.
  • A transistor is made up of three parts: the source, the gate, and the drain. Data is stored and manipulated in the semiconductor chip by controlling the gate to open or close.
  • Transistors are coupled to many metal layers on top, providing a complicated network of electrical connections that allows the chip to perform multiple jobs.

Understanding the Naming Convention for Semiconductor Nodes:

  • Historically, semiconductor nodes were based on two numbers: gate length and metal pitch. This naming standard evolved as transistors shrank.
  • Discrepancy and Progress: As miniaturisation progressed, gate length and metal pitch stopped contributing to node names. There is no physical parameter near to 7 nm in today’s cutting-edge 7 nm node.

Legacy Nodes’ Importance

  • Benefits of Legacy Nodes: While advanced nodes range in size from 10 nm to 5 nm, India’s present focus is on nodes that are 28 nm or larger. Beginning with legacy nodes provides advantages for low-cost applications in robotics, defence, aircraft, industrial automation, autos, IoT, and image sensors.
  • Revenue Source: Commercial fabs continue to produce older nodes alongside modern nodes to meet a variety of demands. In the semiconductor sector, revenue from legacy nodes is still important.

Sensible Approach to India’s Semiconductor Journey:

  • India’s decision to begin with legacy nodes is strategic. It prepares the country for long-term success as the need for legacy nodes in applications like as electric vehicles and infotainment systems grows.
  • Future Potential: India’s semiconductor sector has the potential to grow and become a global centre for semiconductor technology with ongoing progress and development.
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