Semiconductors & Silica: A Perfect Match

Semiconductors are the foundation of modern electronics, and silica plays a vital role in their manufacturing. Did you know that silica is in fact an essential material in the semiconductor industry? It is used as an insulator, passivation layer, and a dielectric material in the production of microchips and other electronic components.

It’s due to silica that we have what are now considered daily essentials, our phones, tablets and computers. Now imagine a world without these devices, we’ve all become accustomed to using our devices to communicate with our loved ones, do work, our banking and always be connected. Silica is the second most mined resource in the world, with demands both globally and domestically here in Australia. 

What are semiconductors?

Semiconductors are materials that have electrical conductivity between that of a conductor and an insulator. They are the foundation of modern electronics, and are used in a wide range of applications including computer processors, solar cells, LEDs, and more. 

Silica: The preferred method

The reason silica is preferred in semiconductor manufacturing is due to its excellent electrical and physical properties. One of the critical functions of silica in semiconductors is as an insulating layer between the conductive layers of the microchip. This insulation layer helps to stop unwelcome electrical leakage between the microchip’s layers. The microchip wouldn’t work right and there would be a lot of electrical interference without this added layer. Also, why we’re on the topic of microchips, they are, in fact, small flat pieces of silicon containing electronic circuits. These chips consist of transistors that function as miniature electrical switches capable of controlling the flow of current. These switches are arranged on the surface of the silicon wafer in a specific pattern by adding and removing materials, resulting in a multilayered lattice of interconnected shapes. Pretty impressive right?

Now, silica is also used as a passivation layer in semiconductor manufacturing. Passivation is the process of adding a thin layer of material to the surface of the semiconductor to protect it from oxidation or other forms of chemical degradation. The passivation layer helps to prevent unwanted chemical reactions that could degrade the performance of the semiconductor.

Another crucial use of silica in semiconductors is as a dielectric material. In this context, the term “dielectric” refers to the material’s ability to store electrical charge. Silica has a high dielectric constant, which means that it can store more electrical charge than some other materials. This property makes silica an excellent choice for use in capacitors and other electronic components that require high capacitance.

Silica is also used in the production of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. In PV cells, silica is used as an anti-reflective coating on the surface of the cell. This coating helps to reduce reflection of sunlight, which increases the efficiency of the PV cell.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using silica nanoparticles in the production of semiconductors. Silica nanoparticles are tiny particles of silica that are only a few nanometers in size. These particles have unique optical and electrical properties that make them ideal for use in the production of advanced electronic devices.

On the whole, silica is an essential material in the manufacturing of semiconductors and other electronic components. Its use as an insulator, passivation layer, dielectric material  and the basis of microchips, allowing the electronics industry to create faster, smaller, and more efficient devices. As the demand for high-performance electronic devices continues to grow, the importance of silica in the industry will continue to increase.