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Emerging Semiconductor and Electronics Technologies

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- Semiconductors: An Engine of Innovation

Semiconductors are a fundamental building block of modern computing. Also known as microchips, they are tiny electronic switches that process commands and run programs in computers and other devices. Semiconductors make machines smaller, faster and easier to operate. Thanks to chips, for example, a smartphone today has more processing power than the computer NASA used on the first moon landing. 

The semiconductor industry is critical to every industry across the globe. Innovations in the semiconductor industry have fueled the digital revolution, advancing countless industries, from personal computing to smart home devices to virtual reality. In fact, from 1995 to 2015, an estimated $3 trillion in global gross domestic product (GDP) was directly attributable to innovation in this area.

With the digital revolution affecting nearly every aspect of our lives, the semiconductor industry has grown substantially, with global sales exceeding $500 billion in 2021. Over the next decade, further innovation in chip technology is expected to drive growth in many areas including 5G, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and virtual reality.

Looking ahead, analysts predict an average annual growth rate of 6% to 8% for the semiconductor industry through 2030. McKinsey predicts that this unsung hero of modern technology could soon become a $1 trillion industry. Interestingly, nearly 70% of this projected growth is expected to be driven by just three industries: automotive, computing and data storage, and wireless communications.


- Beginning of The Silicon Age (or the Information Age)

"The transistor was the product of basic research with a clear technological goal, but although the new technology was anticipated, its revolutionary impact was not." -- [Ian M. Ross, President, AT&T Bell Laboratories.] The invention of the transistor was one of the most important technical developments of the century. It has had profound impact on the way we live and the way we work.

In the 1970s, Texas Instruments and AT&T Bell Laboratories pushed electronics into the silicon age. In the Beginning: Gordon Teal directed the development of the silicon transistor at Texas Instruments. William Shockley led the team at AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories that developed the very first transistor, which was made of germanium. TI’s silicon device with its three long leads became famous, making the Texas upstart the sole supplier of silicon transistors for several years in the 1950s. Morris Tanenbaum at Bell Labs actually made the first silicon transistor, but he felt “it didn’t look attractive” from a manufacturing point of view. 

The Digital Revolution refers to the advancement of technology from analog electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technology available today. The era started to during the 1980s and is ongoing. The Digital Revolution also marks the beginning of the Information Era. The Digital Revolution is sometimes also called the Third Industrial Revolution.


- The Digital Evolution: The Third Industrial Revolution

The Digital Revolution (also known as the Third Industrial Revolution) is the shift from mechanical and analogue electronic technology to digital electronics which began in the latter half of the 20th century, with the adoption and proliferation of digital computers and digital record-keeping, that continues to the present day. Implicitly, the term also refers to the sweeping changes brought about by digital computing and communication technology during this period. Analogous to the Agricultural Revolution and Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution marked the beginning of the Information Age. 

Central to this revolution is the mass production and widespread use of digital logic, MOSFETs (MOS transistors), and integrated circuit (IC) chips, and their derived technologies, including computers, microprocessors, digital cellular phones, and the Internet. These technological innovations have transformed traditional production and business techniques.  


- The Future of Electronics

Emerging technologies are those whose development and practical applications are mostly unrealized. The branch of electronics, in particular, plays a crucial role in signal processing, information processing, and telecommunications. This is one stream that holds promises and is expected to have many innovations and inventions in the years to come. 

Electronics is the fascinating world of electrical circuits that involve components such as sensors, diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits. In simple language, it covers complex electronic systems and instruments, such as modern laptops and smartphones. 

We're reaching the limits of what we can do with conventional silicon semiconductors. In order for electronic components to continue getting smaller we need a new approach. 


- Industry 4.0 and The Semiconductor Industry

Industry 4.0 takes innovative developments that are available today and integrates them to produce a modern, smarter production model. It merges real and virtual worlds and is based on Cyber-physical Systems (CPS) and Cyber-physical Production Systems (CPPS). The model was created to increase business agility, enable cost-effective production of customized products, lower overall production costs, enhance product quality and increase production efficiency. It brings with it new levels of automation and automated decision making that will mean faster responses to production needs and much greater efficiency.

For the semiconductor industry, the high cost of wafers make attaching electronic components to each wafer carrier or FOUP (Front Opening Unified Pod) completely viable and presents huge benefits in increased production efficiency. Adding intelligence to materials and products facilitates the fully decentralized operations model associated with Industry 4.0. With devices communicating with each other, the increased flexibility and productivity this model produces will make it possible to meet an increasing demand for greater manufacturing mixes and individualized products at much lower costs.  

For the production of semiconductors in particular, the very nature of the product being manufactured means there may also be opportunity and added benefit for some devices to hold their own information without the need for additional electronics. The information gathered from the decentralized model and analytical software used in Industry 4.0 also makes it easier to account for the cost of each item, resulting in better intelligence for business strategy and product pricing. 

Although equipment used in the production of semiconductors already have sensors and transmit intelligent information into wider systems, the concept of the CPPS using the IoT adds a new level of simplicity to this idea. The cost of production within the semiconductor industry also means that even marginal variable improvements through the increased use of big data analytics will have huge financial benefits. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) will further enhance flexibility in measurement and actuation possibilities and free manufacturers from the time and cost associated with changes to sophisticated interfaces on production equipment. 


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- Semiconductors: the Next Wave of AI and Automation

Semiconductors are essential technology enablers that power many of the cutting-edge digital devices we use today. The global semiconductor industry is set to continue its robust growth well into the next decade due to emerging technologies such as autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and Internet of Things, coupled with consistent spending on R&D and competition among key players. 

The semiconductor sector's growth trajectory will flatten somewhat as demand for consumer electronics saturates. However, many emerging segments will provide semiconductor companies with abundant opportunities, particularly semiconductor use in the automotive sector and AI.

The elevated degree of dependability associated with semiconductors, along with their low price and compactness has radically supported the integration of these devices into numerous applications - optical sensors, autonomous cars, and strength systems. Recently, many businesses, in particular those associated with the production of AI units and independent vehicles, have focused on semiconductor engineering as an idyllic approach to enhance their technological capabilities. 

Those involved in designing semiconductors are frequently tasked with the elaborate task of crafting, testing, authenticating, incorporating, and manufacturing models for their goal audience. The important reason of the semiconductor engineer is to build up a device that can be effortlessly incorporated into the manufacturer’s module in a while in the layout process.


- Microelectronics and Digital Integrated Circuits (ICs)

Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics. As the name suggests, microelectronics relates to the study and manufacture (or microfabrication) of very small electronic designs and components. Usually, but not always, this means micrometre-scale or smaller. These devices are typically made from semiconductor materials. Many components of normal electronic design are available in a microelectronic equivalent. These include transistors, capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes and (naturally) insulators and conductors can all be found in microelectronic devices. Unique wiring techniques such as wire bonding are also often used in microelectronics because of the unusually small size of the components, leads and pads. This technique requires specialized equipment and is expensive.  

Digital integrated circuits (ICs) consist of billions of transistors, resistors, diodes, and capacitors. Analog circuits commonly contain resistors and capacitors as well. Inductors are used in some high frequency analog circuits, but tend to occupy larger chip area due to their lower reactance at low frequencies. Gyrators can replace them in many applications. 


- The Limits of Physics and The Future of Microelectronics

As techniques have improved, the scale of microelectronic components has continued to decrease. At smaller scales, the relative impact of intrinsic circuit properties such as interconnections may become more significant. These are called parasitic effects, and the goal of the microelectronics design engineer is to find ways to compensate for or to minimize these effects, while delivering smaller, faster, and cheaper devices. Today, microelectronics design is largely aided by Electronic Design Automation software.

Moore’s Law has guided the digital revolution for the past 40 years. For decades, the microelectronics industry focused on miniaturization and increasing speed. However, It had to happen sooner or later. Miniaturization has hit concrete barriers in phyics. As a result, innovation to increase the performance of integrated circuits must now come from new materials and architectures. Several paths are being explored by the industry, including new concepts for transistor and circuit architectures or logic elements.



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