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Homogeneous Mixture

Uniform composition throughout

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A Faster Chip

A Faster Chip

Credit: Matt Myers
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kt88_power_tubes_in_traynor_yba200_amplifier.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The lead guitarist rips off a series of sixteenth notes in his solo while the drummer maintains the beat and the bass guitarist weaves a rhythm around the melody. The massive amps used to magnify the sound have one old-fashioned component in them: the vacuum tube. In a day where computer chips, miniaturization and solid-state electronics are standard, the vacuum tube provides a fuller, more “complete” sound for the guitar.

Amazing But True

  • A successful computer chip begins with a very simple substance – sand. No, you can’t just scoop up some sand from the beach and hope to make a chip. Silicon can be obtained from quartz, but mainly sand is the main raw material. A process called zone refining moves the silicon through an apparatus at 1600°C, causing the impurities to migrate to one end of the crystal, where they can be cut off and discarded.
  • The bulk silicon is then cut into wafers about one millimeter thick and up to 300 mm in diameter. These wafers are then carefully polished. A complex pattern is drawn on the wafer, and then the wafer is “doped” to add specific cations or anions, depending on the function planned for that component.
  • Credit: JamesIrwin
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67304318@N07/6128658264/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Many dozens of individual chips can be made from one silicon wafer [Figure2]


  • At this point, the wafer then has components added to build the computer chip. A single wafer may have enough material to produce several hundred memory chips. Processor chips are much more complex, so an individual wafer may only furnish 10-50 of these chips.
  • Watch a video about the construction of a computer chip at the link below:


Can You Apply It?

Use the links below to learn more about computer chips. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How pure does silicon need to be for electronic work?
  2. What happens to silicon when it freezes?
  3. What is the principle behind the graphene computer chip?
  4. What element has the possibility of replacing silicon for chips?
  5. What advantage would a carbon nanotube chip have over a silicon chip?

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