How It Works

Why are microchips made of silicon?

Most microchips are currently made from silicon due to its effective semi-conducting properties. A semiconductor is something which conducts electricity, but only partially. Semiconductors are the foundation of most electronic devices as they allow the building of gates and switches in a circuit. Pure silicon is actually an insulator, and becomes a semiconductor through a process known as doping. Doping involves introducing small amounts of impurities, giving rise to free electrons or ‘holes’ that electrons want to move into. Silicon has been so widely used in microchips as it is easy to extract from sand in large quantities, and gets the job done. However current research suggests that materials such as carbon graphene are able to outperform silicon, and could represent the future of consumer electronics.