The history of the birth of the semiconductor evolved through the AC to DC converter in the year 1874. Later, the era of semiconductor-integrated electronics grew with speed through the invention of transistors. The semiconductor – a superpower electronic element starting from the first semiconductor device, ‘cat whiskers’, which was invented and patented by Jagadish Chandra Bose, forms the cognitive backbone of the present-time electronics which could harness the potential of the narrow band, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), super computers, quantum computers, quantum dots, edge computing and autonomous unmanned vehicles (UAVs).
Intel’s quantum semiconductor chip ‘Eagle’ has 127 so-called ‘qubits’ which can be both 1 and 0 against the classical computer that stores 1 or 0. Semiconductors enable high-speed broadband electronic communication between end-to-end devices in the real-time mode that translates to coding and decoding the communication signals. Modern semiconductor technology that includes ‘chip on board’ (COB) that attaches the semiconductor integrated circuit to the printed circuit boards, embedded multimedia card (e-MMC) that refers to a package consisting of both flash memory and a flash memory controller integrated on the silicon die and micro SD cards together extend countless applications.
The application of the semiconductor may relate to clean green energy such as hydrogen, solar and wind, digital healthcare such as telemedicine, smart digital toys, 5G or 6G connectivity, defence, self-driving autonomous vehicles, automated guided vehicles, space satellites, rovers, flying robots and vehicles. Semiconductors additionally support mega storage of data (system-on-chip) through memory flash drives and data cards, neuromorphic computing and synapses. The magical transition from semiconductor to superconductor upon certain conditions finds extensive application in levitating trains, highly accurate magneto-encephalograms, smaller and lighter engines, generators and transformers.
The semiconductor industry has had a kick-start with the launch of the India Semiconductor Mission 2022 (ISM) that outlays incentives worth ₹76,000 crore for the development of semiconductor fabs and display fabs. The mission will pave the way for world-class fabrication units across India. One of the strong pillars of the mission is the design-linked initiative (DLI) that enrols and promotes MSMEs, start-ups and innovators to translate the ideas of semiconductors to the proof of concept (PoC). India is already manufacturing electronic goods worth $76 billion and is on the way to reaching $300 billion. The mission will give a momentum to national and international investors to invest in semiconductor innovation, design, fabrication and enable the acceleration of technology transfer from laboratory to the market through design and development of intelligent devices with the support of semiconductor system on chips.
India is aiming to build the nation as a world-class, self-reliant semiconductor hub that would support the globe through semiconductor-integrated supply chain. Modern semiconductor research in India has paved the way for the birth of two promising open-source microprocessors called Shakti (32 bit) and Vega (64 bit) under the flagship programme of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s unique initiative, Microprocessor Development Programme. The micro-process will lend a fillip to the demand of automotive electric vehicle mobility, space technology satellites, digital healthcare, intelligent human machine interface (HMI), and machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity through semiconductor data chipsets.
Intel, ‘Sapphire Rapids’, targeted at the data centre CPU market. It is the next-generation memory standard that provides 30 times better Artificial Intelligence (AI) optimisation for deep learning to address the AI markets. The birth of modern era chipsets enables intelligent machines – machine-type communication technology (MTC) – to connect with the internet and this would be a game-changing technology for present-time semiconductors.
The MTC technology enables a long battery power life of about 10 years through power switch mode operation with high levels of efficiency. The technology is enabled with embedded GNSS. The semiconductor chip set allows low-bit rate IoT applications with long range, especially the narrow band internet of things (NB-IoT).Gallium Nitride (GaN) is a direct band gap semiconductor that is going to become a dominant semiconductor. GaN lighting industry is showing exponential growth. GaN will also play a prominent role in 5G connectivity. The scalability of quantum computing has grown exponentially and in this scenario the semiconductor data chip sets, especially the qubits, have doubled every 10 months.
In recent times, India has declared the semiconductor Digital India Reduced Instruction Set Computers (RISC-V) (DIR-V) programme to create new-age generation of indigenous microprocessors as a part of the emphasis on self-reliance. The RISC-V will address cognitive solutions in present-time applications such as 5G connectivity, digital telemedicine, cyber-physical systems, deep learning, augmented or mixed reality and metaverse. The semiconductor ease-of-fabrication steps are outlined below:
Research: Pre-competitive core research is important for semiconductor fabrication and forms the primary and first step of the process.
Design: Researchers and engineers create the design that is essential for building the semiconductor chip.
Raw materials: Semiconductors start as sand which comprises the most promising element, namely, silicon (Si).
Ingot: The sand is purified and melted into solid cylinders called ingots that weigh up to 200+ lbs.
Blank wafer: The ingot is sliced into very thin (1 mm) silicon discs and subsequently polished for a flawless finish.
Finished wafer: Next, wafers are printed with highly intricate circuit designs that will later become individual chips.
Cut wafer: The silicon wafer containing finished semiconductors – sometimes as many as 70,000 per wafer – is subsequently cut into tiny individual semiconductors called dies.
Packaged chip: The dies are then packaged into finished semiconductors, which may be placed into semiconductor devices.
Chip on circuit board: Finished semiconductors which are system-on-chip are embedded in countless modern electronic devices, including smart phones, quantum computers, neuromorphic semiconductors chips, and edge and super computers.
Future technologies and development
The emerging semiconductor ease-of-fabrication has led to advanced display technologies such as development of quantum dot nano cell, quantum dot organic light-emitting diodes and quantum nano-emitting diodes. The Government of India has initiated a unique nano electronics users’ programme called the ‘Indian Nano Electronics Users Programme: Idea to Innovation’ which is a research-cum-training programme jointly run by the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering, IISc Bangalore, IIT Bombay, IIT Guwahati, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur and IIT Delhi.
This is for boosting and giving momentum to micro and nano-fabrication research and development in nano electronics in India. The programme trains engineering and science graduates and faculty members in the field of nano electronics through familiarisation workshops and hand-on-training of micro nano electronic mechanical systems’ fabrication in the clean room facilities available. The facility allows the students and faculty members to present their research project ideas, thereby providing mentoring solutions through scientists and experts from the industry and academia to fabricate micro and nano devices in clean room facilities at an affordable cost.