Metalz is difficultz

Silicon is the crude oil of the Digital Age. Millions of metric tons are mined every year in China, Russia, Norway, the US and elsewhere, much of which is used in the $500 billion global market for semiconductors.

Not so much, no.

The majority of the world production which is done mainly in China and Russia (in 2014 about 7 million tonnes) is used as an alloy component for steel and aluminium, as well as a raw material for the production of silicones.

Only about 2% of the raw silicon is prepared for hyper-pure silicon as described in the following section,
of which approximately 90% is used for the manufacture of silicon solar cells. Some 100 tonnes a year
are ultimately used in the production of silicon wafers for the semiconductor sector, which this chapter is
devoted to.

That 100 tonnes looks a little low to me but then what do I know?

It’s still true that silicon production for semiconductors is the merest fraction of silicon production overall.

The rest of the piece is very good.

8 thoughts on “Metalz is difficultz”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    I’ve just been reading that Daimler has had to stop production because of the shortage of chips.

    All those highly paid logistics experts will now be looking at a bit more just-in-case and a bit less just-in-time.

  2. BlokeInTejasInNormandy

    BiND

    It ain’t the lack of raw materials that’s caused the shortage. It’s lack of Silicon patterning capacity in the fabs.

  3. I know one green who has been convinced for years that unless we recycle silicon chips we’ll run out of silicon. Try telling him that Si is ~30% of the Earth’s crust and he’ll simply ignore you. He’s now using the computer chip shortage as “proof” that he’s right.

  4. BiND,

    “All those highly paid logistics experts will now be looking at a bit more just-in-case and a bit less just-in-time.”

    I’m not sure. The contingency plans for JIT are based on normal sorts of failures, like a factory going bust (so, make sure you order from many factories), not once-a-century events. If you put in plans for all of those, it’s going to be very expensive.

  5. “That 100 tonnes looks a little low to me but then what do I know?”

    Given 30cm wafers (125grams) and 10mm square dies that 100 tonnes would yield 512 million dies. Of CPU/GPU level.
    Of course, a lot of semiconductors produced are a lot smaller than the monster dies needed for C/GPU’s. so that 512 million is the low number for what the actual yield could be. Easily several billions if you take tiny stuff like current/voltage regulators and general switching/logic smd chips into account.

    So those 100 tonnes gets you a lot of chippery.

  6. AIUI it’s silica (aka sand) that’s ‘mined’ (quarried), from which silicon is produced? Presumably 99% of it goes into bricks, concrete etc. rather than chips.

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