Technology Behind Manufacturing a Semiconductor Chip


  • With supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and recent geopolitical tensions, many countries, including India, have realized the importance of investing in chip manufacturing infrastructure.

About the Semiconductor Chip

  • A semiconductor has properties between a conductor, which conducts electricity, and an insulator, which does not.
  • In its purest form, a semiconductor is a very weak conductor of electricity.
  • However, its electrical properties can be changed by adding small amounts of certain substances called ‘dopants’.
  • By taking a pure semiconductor and carefully injecting certain parts with specific dopants, complex circuits can be ‘printed’ on the semiconductor.

The Role of Transistors:

  • The transistor, one of the earliest electronic components to be built using a semiconductor, is an extremely versatile device.
  • In its most popular form, it can function as an electronic switch.
  • A typical semiconductor chip can have millions/billions of interconnected switches that work together to perform various logical and computational operations.
  • A transistor can also function as an amplifier (to amplify the weak signal received by your cell phone) and is an integral part of circuits that generate and process high-frequency signals (such as those required in wireless communication technologies).

The Manufacturing Process:

  • It involves several critical steps like deposition, photoresist, lithography, etch, ionization, and packaging.
  • Deposition: It begins with a silicon wafer. Wafers are sliced from a salami-shaped bar of 99.99% pure silicon (known as an ‘ingot’) and polished to extreme smoothness.
  • Thin films of conducting, isolating, or semiconducting materials are deposited on the wafer to enable the first layer to be printed on it.
  • Photoresist Coating: The wafer is then covered with a light-sensitive coating called ‘photoresist’, or ‘resist’ for short.
  • Positive Resist: The areas exposed to ultraviolet light change their structure and are made more soluble – ready for etching and deposition.
  • Lithography: It is a crucial step in the chipmaking process because it determines just how small the transistors on a chip can be.
  • During this stage, the chip wafer is inserted into a lithography machine where it’s exposed to deep ultraviolet (DUV) or extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light.
  • Etching: It refers to any technology that will selectively remove material from a thin film on a substrate (with or without prior structures on its surface) and by this removal create a pattern of that material on the substrate.
Global Semiconductor Consumption

– China is the largest downstream user of semiconductors, as Chinese manufacturers incorporate semiconductors into a range of electronic products that are consumed domestically or exported globally.

– The United States and China were the top final consumers of semiconductors contained in electronic goods, with a share of 25% and 24%, respectively, followed by the European Union (EU) at 20%.

– Global semiconductor sales reached an all-time high at $574 billion in 2022.

a. It is projected to surpass $1 trillion by 2030, driven by demands from computing and data storage, wireless communication, and automotive electronics.

India and Semiconductor

– India has established the India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) to address the global semiconductor shortage and encourage manufacturers to set up their semiconductor facilities.

– India has realized the importance of investing in chip manufacturing infrastructure.

1. The TATA group has partnered with Taiwan’s Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (PSMC) to set up a 300mm wafer fabrication plant in Gujarat.

a. It will roll out its first 28nm chip in 2026.

2. Two assembly and test plants in Gujarat and Assam have also been recently approved by the Government of India.

Government Initiatives

– In a bid to make India’s $10 billion chip-making initiative more attractive to investors, the Centre approved changes to the scheme for the development of a semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in the country.

– It aims to provide up to 50% of the Project cost for two semiconductor and two display fabs in the country.