What is a Semiconductor?

Semiconductors power our connected world

Where there’s electricity, you’ll find semiconductors. It’s only right to refer to them as the brains of modern electronics.

Semiconductors form the basis of integrated circuits and chips. They are everywhere and in everything these days, from smartphones and computers to cars, home appliances, and hospital equipment. While semiconductors are the foundation of modern electronics, it’s also an industry not many people know about.

A semiconductor is a material that exhibits electrical conductivity between that of a conductor and an insulator. Materials like silicon, germanium, carbon nanotubes, and gallium arsenide are commonly used to manufacture semiconductors. These materials can be doped with impurities to modify their electrical properties.

When a voltage is applied to a semiconductor, it becomes conductive, allowing the flow of electricity. By controlling the voltage, the semiconductor can be made to represent a bit, which is either 1 or 0. Circuits made up of these semiconductors and bits serve as the building blocks of logic and artificial intelligence.

Imagine the world without semiconductors

Imagine a world without these tiny wonders – no 5G phones, no mobile networks, no computers, and no electric cars. Semiconductors may be small, but their impact on the world around us is massive.

And where there are semiconductors, digital transformation and the green transition can’t be far behind. For instance, they play a big role in slowing down climate change by enabling the adoption of new renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen. In addition, they enhance greenhouse gas monitoring and promote improved energy efficiency in society. Semiconductors aren’t just components; they’re catalysts propelling us towards a smarter future.

Let’s talk numbers

The numbers speak for themselves. The semiconductor industry is on course to reach a total of US$1 trillion in global revenue by 2030, with the journey from US$600 billion expected to take just a decade.

So, the race for technological leadership is on. In the US, the CHIPS and Science Act has provided an estimated US$50 billion for American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development. In Europe, more than €43 billion will be made available to support the European Chips Act, which aims to double the EU’s global market share in semiconductors from 10% to at least 20% by 2030.