Kuiper leaps away on the beach.

The Silicon Mines

Kuiper clocks out after a hard day’s work at the silicon mines. ??

Do you know that the chip in your computer or phone is made from silicon derived from sand? ⏳ According to a 1945 report commissioned by the State of Oregon, the sand on this beach is mostly quartz (like many beaches around the world.) Quartz has the chemical formula of SiO2 and is the raw material used to make silicon wafers. Swipe to see a picture of one with a leading brand dog toy for scale. ?????

Wafers are shiny, thin discs of Si on which processors (and solar panels!) are printed. The first wafers were produced in the 1960s, and were 25mm (1 in) in diameter. The one here is a 150mm (~6 in) wafer printed by Intel; these are most likely Pentiums from around 1994. The current industry standard is twice the size, 300mm (~12 in.) Silicon wafers are SUPER thin; this one is 675 µm (0.027 in.) Due to its fragility, I couldn’t take it out of the case to photograph the bottom properly, but you can see it has been polished to a mirror-like finish.

To make wafers, we can’t just drive down to the beach with a backhoe and scoop up the sand. It would be cost prohibitive to sort out all the tiny non-quartz pieces, so we get sand from special mines which are more pure. ~90% of the quartz used in electronics comes from a mine in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Once we have a pile of SiO2 sand, we need to get rid of the O2 part, so we heat it to a badillion degrees (2000+ C.) By mixing the sand with carbon at these temps, the O will form CO2 and leave the Si behind. That gets us to ~98% purity, which is a good start, but we need 99.9999999% purity to make chips. To get there, we combine our Si with hydrochloric acid to make trichlorosilane gas (HSiCl3), distill that to get pure Si, then melt it all down again. The last step is to form it into a single, cylindrical crystal called an “ingot,” which looks kind of like a giant shiny crayon.

The ingot is sliced with a wire saw, ground and polished, and then purchased by a company like Samsung, Intel or TSMC (the latter makes iPhone chips.) Then the real work begins. ??️???️???

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg72uKNgv83/

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