New Discoveries & Old Issues Crop Up In Semiconductor Sector

From a global standpoint, the difference between new and old happens to be a thin lens. In the chip world, silicon’s dominance days happen to be coming to an end. Researchers go on to believe a new form of graphene, merged with silicon carbide, can very well be the future of chipmaking and quantum computing. They recently went on to unveil the world’s first graphene semiconductor.

Meanwhile, the international supply chain happens to be applying lessons learned from past disruptions so as to manage a new wave of uncertainty. As war goes on in the Middle East and Ukraine and with demand for goods fluctuating quite wildly, the supply chain is going ahead and embracing diversity and risk mitigation so as to bolster confidence.

World’s’ First Graphene Semiconductor Could Very Well Power Future Quantum Computers

The limits of making use of silicon so as to create semiconductors happen to be rapidly approaching, perhaps sooner than many would even like to admit. Taking this in mind, researchers are looking out for the next material to carry the sector forward. Graphene happens to be promising thanks to its superior conduction traits, yet it does lack a band gap, which has limited its capacity to be used when it comes to chipmaking.

As per a new study published in the journal Nature, this barrier can as well be solved. The solution comes from a source with which several across the industry happen to be already familiar: silicon carbide- SiC.

The research team went on to bond a single-atom layer of graphene having a silicon carbide layer by way of using specialized heating as well as cooling processes. Their result happened to be an epitaxial graphene-based semiconductor that can go on to revolutionize chipmaking in the years to come.

In this system, the SiC atoms go on to donate electrons to the graphene molecules, which then create a functional band gap. This refers to the minimum energy electrons need so as to move within a material to enable transistors to switch between on and off phases in a computer chip. Using SiC enabled the researchers to bypass the limits of graphene and then create the world’s first functional graphene semiconductor.

Since graphene goes ahead and moves electrons much faster than silicon, the chip can go on to operate at terahertz frequencies. Such speeds happen to be a massive leap compared to today’s silicon chips and promise really big things for the industry.

Notably, the researchers happen to believe their approach can be easily be integrated into existing wafer manufacturing processes. Indeed, many chipmakers happen to be already experimenting with SiC wafers, given their growing importance for clean energy along with electric vehicles. With this in mind, it is, as a matter of fact, realistic to see how the sector could transition towards this new epitaxial graphene as a source for advanced semiconductors sans a revolutionary upgrade to existing processes.

It is well to be noted that even more exciting happens to be the material’s relevance for quantum computing. Today’s leaders across this segment are making use of a variety of methods so as to achieve their goals. There is a huge amount of disagreement on which technology will yield the greatest quantum results. Intel, for instance, goes on to believe in a silicon-based solution that houses spin qubits within it. Meanwhile, Google, IBM, as well as Rigetti Computing happen to be focused on a more mainstream superconducting model that needs extremely low temperatures but is incredibly powerful.

The lead researcher, Walt de Heer of the Georgia Institute of Technology, said in an interview that, like light, electrons within graphene have quantum mechanical wave-like properties that can be accessed through devices, especially at very low temperatures.

The research team looks forward to explore the quantum applications of their discovery in their future studies. Though it goes on to remain speculative, de Heer goes on to say that graphene-based chips could very well outperform superconducting technology. If true, then this would be a big breakthrough in the quantum computing world and could go on to even reshape how the industry evolves in the years to come.

Notably, for now, graphene-based semiconductors happen to be an exciting area to explore. More research, as well as significantly more testing, is required right before mass production can be considered. But the need for more advanced chipmaking materials is indeed the need of the hour, and epitaxial graphene is indeed a promising solution.

Diversity and Risk Mitigation Key when it comes to Combating Global Supply Chain Uncertainty Amid Turmoil

Internationally, the supply chain happens to be still working in order to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, though, fresh factors have introduced more disruption. The conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, and now Israel and Hamas, have had a ripple effect on the supply chain. Ongoing fluctuations in demand also go on to make it almost impossible for logistics managers to predict future requirements. As a result, there happens to be an undeniable element of uncertainty as of now as manufacturers, logistics operators, as well as consumers grapple with the wave of changes.

Fortunately, global risk diversification endeavors are starting to pay dividends. Following the onset of growing tensions between the U.S. and China in 2018, chipmakers as well as players across numerous other industries have gone on to engage in strategic realignments in order to protect their operations from certain uncertainties. Indeed, this trend of worldwide diversification has been one of the biggest headlines in the years that have gone by as companies go on to expand their operations across new locations and also avoid regions ripe with conflict, either economic or otherwise. Apparently, this diversity has gone ahead and dampened the impact of military conflicts and offers all parties more flexibility when it comes to moving goods across the world on schedule.

With the chip sector at the center of the elevating global demand for components so as to power the AI revolution, Taiwan is going through a surge in business. The Taiwan International Ports Corporation witnessed record-breaking highs last year, with more volume expected for 2024. This comes partially thanks to the inauguration of its newest terminal, which can have in it four container ships at a time.

In Taiwan’s port as well as others worldwide, lessons learned throughout the pandemic include enhancing efficiency and preventing congestion. This goes on to include the elevated use of automation as well as better global planning and operating rules from leading logistics corporations.

Of course, the falling demand for goods also goes on to play a role. As per data cited from several international institutions and also cited by DigiTimes Asia, global trade volume progress currently lags behind maritime capacity broadening. Today, the supply chain happens to be better equipped so as to keep up than in years past.

In addition to this, the latest PMI for the U.S. manufacturing as well as services sectors points to sustained activity marching forward with no more dips on the horizon. While the same is not true for the EU, consumer confidence happens to be rising in the region.

The global supply chain will require much more time to forget about the huge disruptions that shook the sector to its core in 2020. In reality, it is indeed best not to forget those trials or the lessons learned. Even so, this uncertainty will linger as a barrage of political as well as economic tensions continues to add pressure on manufacturing and logistics.

Fortunately, the global supply chain happens to be now more diverse and robust too than ever. There is indeed no sign that the efforts behind such a trend will slow down in the years to come. As companies worldwide stress operational security, global collaboration will be growingly essential, and the broader supply chain will indeed benefit.