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Why are Semiconductors Important?

Semiconductor components such as integrated chips, diodes, and transistors are integral to many consumer products and electronic devices in our everyday lives. These include smartphones, laptops, PCs, games consoles, TVs, microwaves, and refrigerators, plus many more.

In addition to everyday consumer and business use, semiconductors have the potential to transform a range of sectors, from the military to medicine (they can be found in implants like pacemakers). They also have a key role to play in helping the planet: semiconductor technologies lay at the heart of innovation in renewable energy, including solar and wind power.

The semiconductor industry today serves a global market. Semiconductors are a small but powerful, and incredibly valuable, commodity sitting right at the heart of a $500bn (£401bn) industry that is expected to double by 2030 (McCallum, 2023).

The Rise of Semiconductors

Innovation in computing technology in the 1960s and beyond would have been impossible without the discovery of semiconductors chips, and an understanding of how they work. Since the early 2000s, the emergence of the internet and cloud computing has consolidated our reliance on semiconductors to a greater extent. A heavy demand for microchips has to be counterbalanced by the problems encountered in producing them. The manufacture of microchips leads to pollution and is not particularly economical. Current semiconductor research is driven toward increasing efficiency, while looking for more environmentally friendly methods of production.

New Semiconductor Technologies

Current trends in demand for semiconductor technologies include the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 5G technology. The use of semiconductors is critical in nuclear radiation detection to prevent dangerous leaks, while semiconductor nanocrystals are also a growing field in biomedicine.

Nanomaterials and Quantum Dots

Nanomaterials are used in a range of applications including electronics, sensing, biomedicine, water purification, energy, and photocatalysis. Semiconductor nanocrystals, or quantum dots (QDs), have dimensions of a few nanometres. These artificially synthesised particles have optical properties useful to the electronic and biomedical industries. In the electronic industry, nanocrystals have been utilized in organic photovoltaics and solar cells.

Over the last decade in biomedicine, researchers have worked on the development of nanomaterials with therapeutic and diagnostic properties. Nanocrystals can be doped with impurities to tune stability, as well as magnetic and optical characteristics. This holds appeal for a wide variety of applications in the biomedical field, including biosensing and bioimaging. Biosensors are used to detect chemical substances in the body and can potentially pick up the onset of disease at a critically early stage. Biosensors can also be used for the real-time monitoring of physical and chemical changes in biological tissues.

Semiconductors are Important

Semiconductors are small powerhouses, essential to the functioning of a multitude of technologies and industries. They're everywhere—from our daily gadgets to critical sectors, like medicine and renewable energy. Innovation continues to push the boundaries of what semiconductors can do, and our reliance on their existence continues to grow. These advancements not only improve our quality of life but also offer promising solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

References and Additional Reading

Lui, G. et al. (2022) ‘Recent advances of eco-friendly quantum dots light-emitting diodes for display’, Progress in Quantum Electronics, 86. doi: 10.1016/j.pquantelec.2022.100415.

McCallum, S. (2023) ‘What are semiconductors and how are they used?’, BBC News –Technology. Available at:

Peng, X. (2021) ‘Synthesis strategies and biomedical applications for doped inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals’, Cell Reports Physical Science, 2(5). doi: 10.1016/j.xcrp.2021.100436.

Terna, A. D. et al. (2021) ‘The Future of Semiconductors Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Properties and Applications’, Materials Science and Engineering, 272. doi: 10.1016/j.mseb.2021.115363.

Online resources last accessed in October 2023.

Contributing Authors

Written by

Dr. Nicola Williams

Professional Science Writer

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