From the appliances in your house to airplanes, semiconductors have been dominating the technology industry over the years. Semiconductors are materials widely used in the electronics technology industry due to their unique electrical properties. These materials can be found in many of the devices we use in our daily lives, including smartphones, computers, wearable devices, televisions, etc. When we talk about semiconductor technology, something that cannot be ignored is semiconductor substrates. In this blog article, we will explore their functionality, performance, and connections between substrate and wafers. Also, we are going to explore the most commonly used semiconductor substrates in the industry and their mechanism. We will talk about the benefits of using these substrates in making a semiconductor.
Let’s start from the beginning!
What Is a Substrate for Semiconductors?
When we discuss semiconductors, we are referring to materials that have unique electrical properties that are used for creating advanced electronic devices. However, before we can create these devices, we need to start with a stable foundation, which is called a ‘substrate’.
A substrate is essentially a supporting component upon which or within which the elements of a semiconductor device are fabricated or attached. This component provides a stable foundation and high integration that helps to make sure that the semiconductor device functions properly. The most common materials used as underlayers for semiconducting components are silicon, gallium arsenide, sapphire, etc.
Why Do We Need to Use a Substrate?
So why do we need to use a substrate when creating a semiconductor? The answer lies in the unique properties of these components. A Semiconductor is a component that can conduct electricity, but not as well as metals. This property makes them ideal for creating electronic devices because they can be used to control the flow of electricity.
However, semiconductor components are very fragile and can be easily damaged. This is where the substrates come in. By providing a stable foundation, the substrate helps to protect the delicate semiconductor substance and makes sure that the device functions properly.
Creating a semiconductor device with a substrate is a complex process. First, the substrate is prepared by cleaning and polishing it to ensure that it is free of any impurities. Next, a layer of components is deposited onto the substrate using a variety of techniques, such as chemical vapor deposition or physical vapor deposition. This layer serves as the base for the semiconductor substance.
Then, the semiconductor material is grown on top of this base layer using a process called ‘epitaxy’. Epitaxy is a complicated etching process and it involves the controlled deposition of atoms or molecules onto the base layer to create a semiconductor substance with the targeted electrical properties. Once the semiconductor substance is grown, it can be patterned and etched to create the various components of the electronic device.
As you can see, the substrate is a critical component added to a semiconductor device. It provides a stable foundation for the delicate semiconductor substance and ensures that the device functions properly. By understanding the role of the substrate, we can develop the basics and expertise in the applicable processes into the complex procedures of creating electronic devices that are useful for every nook and corner of the globe.
What Is the Connection between Semiconductor Substrates and Wafers?
When we discuss semiconductors and underlayers, we often hear the term “wafers” mentioned as well. What is a wafer? A wafer is essentially a thin slice of the substrate component, which serves as the base for creating semiconductor devices.
In most cases, people get confused between substrates and wafers. Are wafers and substrates the same? The answer is no. Semiconductor underlayers and wafers are not the same, although they are closely related. As we mentioned before, the substrate is a supporting component upon which or within which the elements of a semiconductor device are fabricated or attached. On the other hand, considering wafer thickness and wafer size, it is a small component. A wafer is prepared by carefully slicing the substrate component into a thin, circular shape, and it finally serves as the base for creating high-performance semiconductor devices.
In other words, wafers are known as the starting point for creating the complex electronic components that make up modern devices. To produce a wafer, the substrate component is first carefully prepared to ensure that it is free of any impurities or defects. This involves a series of steps, including cleaning, polishing, and etching procedures, to create a smooth and uniform surface. Once the substrate component has been prepared, it is sliced into thin, circular wafers using a special cutting tool.
The general process of creating these devices involves depositing multiple layers of material onto the surface of the wafer, which are then patterned and etched to create the various components of the high-performance electronic technology. This action is repeated many times, with each layer building upon the previous one, until the final semiconductor device is complete.
While a substrate can take many forms, such as a flat sheet or a cylindrical rod, a wafer is a specific shape that is commonly used in the semiconductor industry. So now you might understand that substrate and wafer are not the same things, yet, they are closely related
Types of Substrate Used for Semiconductors
The type of substrate used for a semiconductor can have a huge impact on the high performance and characteristics of the end result of those electronic gadgets. There are several different types of substrate materials commonly used in the semiconductor industry, each is unique in its properties and advantages.
Single-crystal silicon is one of the most widely used underlayers in the semiconductor industry. It is a type of substrate component that features a single, large crystal of silicon, which is developed using a special process. The resulting substrate is very uniform and free from defects, which makes it ideal for creating high-performance electronic devices. Single-crystal silicon is also very stable and has excellent electrical properties, which shows a high integration when manufacturing transistors, integrated microcircuits, wearable devices, and other types of semiconductor components. In the industry, there is a higher demand for semiconductors formed by Silicon compared to other substrates.
Gallium Arsenide, or GaAs, is another type of substrate component that is commonly used in the semiconductor industry. It features a collaboration of gallium and arsenic, which gives it unique electrical properties that make it useful for certain types of electronic appliances. Compared to silicon, Gallium Arsenide has higher electron mobility, meaning that electrons can move more quickly through the component. This makes it a popular choice for high-speed electronic components such as microwave and radio-frequency devices. Gallium Arsenide is also used in manufacturing certain types of solar cells, due to its ability to convert light into electrical energy more efficiently than silicon.
Sapphire is another substrate component that shows a high integration with semiconductor production. It is a type of crystal that features a compound of aluminum and oxygen, which gives it unique properties that make it useful for certain types of electronic devices. Sapphire is a very hard and durable component, which makes it ideal for applications that need to stand out in harsh environments. It is also transparent to certain situations of light. That quality makes it useful for manufacturing LED lights, other types of wearable devices, and optoelectronic devices. Additionally, sapphire has excellent thermal conductivity, which helps to reduce heat from electronic components and prevent damage due to overheating.
Single-Crystal Aluminum Oxide
Single-crystal aluminum oxide, or Al2O3, is a type of underlayer component that is similar to sapphire. It is made from a compound of aluminum and oxygen and has similar properties such as high hardness and excellent thermal conductivity. Al2O3 is also transparent to certain wavelengths of light, which makes it useful for creating optoelectronic devices. However, Al2O3 doesn’t show a high integration as much as sapphire does in the semiconductor industry, due to its higher cost and lower availability.
Because of its particular features, silicon carbide, often known as SiC, is one kind of substrate component that is becoming more and more popular within the semiconductor industry due to its high integration. SiC features a compound of silicon and carbon, which gives it excellent thermal conductivity, high electron mobility, and high breakdown voltage. This makes it ideal for creating electronic devices that need to operate at high temperatures or high frequencies. Silicon Carbide is also used in certain types of power electronics and LEDs, due to its high integration ability to handle high levels of current and voltage.
Germanium, or Ge, is a type of substrate component that was commonly used in the early days of the semiconductor industry. It is a chemical substance that is equal to silicon in terms of its capabilities as a semiconductor substance. However, germanium has largely been replaced by silicon due to its higher cost and lower availability. Germanium is still used in certain niche applications, such as in infrared detectors and some types of solar cells.
The semiconductor industry frequently employs a type of substrate material called Indium Phosphate, or InP. The ability to create high-speed electronic devices such as transistors and lasers from this component is one of the reasons. InP has high electron mobility, which means that electrons can move quickly through the component. This makes it ideal for creating components that need to operate at high frequencies. InP is also transparent to certain wavelengths of light, which makes it useful for creating optoelectronic devices such as LEDs and solar cells.
Silicon-Germanium, or SiGe, is a type of substrate component that combines the properties of both silicon and germanium. SiGe has higher electron mobility than pure silicon, which makes it useful for creating high-speed electronic devices such as transistors. SiGe is commonly used in telecommunications and wireless applications.
The semiconductor industry has been involved in zinc oxide, or ZnO, as a form of substrate material due to its unique attributes and special functionalities. ZnO is a compound of zinc and oxygen and has excellent thermal conductivity and transparency to certain wavelengths of light. This makes it useful for creating optoelectronic devices such as LEDs and solar cells. ZnO is also being studied for its use in high-power and high-temperature electronic devices due to its high breakdown voltage and resistance to high temperatures.
What Are the Benefits of Substrates for the Production of Semiconductors?
You may already be aware that using underlayers for the production of a semiconductor has many benefits. These materials have a wide range of current and voltage handling capacities, meaning they can handle different amounts of electrical power. They can also be utilized to make advanced microelectronic circuits that are simple to construct. Also, semiconductor devices made with substrates don’t have filaments, which means they don’t burn out as quickly. Substrates like single-crystal silicon and gallium arsenide also have high mobility at high or standard room temperatures, which allows them to pass electric current at higher rates than other materials. Using substrates for semiconductor production allows for more efficient and reliable electronic devices.
Find the Semiconductors Made of Top-Quality Substrates
A solid foundation is required for anything built on it. This theory applies to technology too. The foundation of technology includes the materials used to create it, such as the under-layers used in a semiconductor. By using high-quality substrate types, we can create more efficient and reliable electronic devices that will drive technological miracles in the future.
We discussed what semiconductor substrates are, how they function, and the commonly used substrates in the industry. If you want to know more about semiconductors, their components, utilization, and more you can browse our Inquivix Technologies Insights to know more about them.
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