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(Seven-minute read)

How Has The Microchip Changed The World?

The impacts of the microchip have been enormous.

They are either the savior of the world or the annihilator. 

It would not be an exaggeration to say the world would not be able to continue without the Chip that drives technology. 

They are around us everywhere.  Our phones, of course, our laptops, our iPads – all of those things we’re now surrounded by this technology.

More than likely.

THEY WILL END UP BEING IMPLANTED IN OUR BODIES IF WE ARE TO STAY OR EVER LEAVE THIS PLANET.

THEY ARE NOT ONLY SHAPING THE PLANET BUT OUR EXPLORATION OF THE UNIVERSE (WITH THE JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE RECENTLY SENDING THE DEEPEST PENETRATION PICTURE OF SPACE.) 

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Despite being a piece of real estate no larger than a fingernail, the modern microchip is home to billions of transistors, miles of metallic interconnects, and layers of structures stacked on top of each other like skyscrapers.

Overall, a microchip is a structure that stands in abject defiance of the second law of thermodynamics: It creates a region of extreme order from a whole lot of chaos, and that does require a lot of energy.

One or more microchips run every one of the 40 billion connected devices currently in use—a figure that’s expected to jump to 350 billion by 2030.

Every time we make a Zoom call, between our personal devices, routers, data centers, satellites, and peripheral devices, at least a quintillion microchips were called to work.

Unfortunately, these chips consume an immense amount of resources and generate truckloads of waste.

The microchip is essentially made from sand—albeit sand that has been melted, purified, and refined until it is over 99.9999 percent pure silicon.

The arduous task of turning these disc-shaped, purple-colored wafers into microchips and memory devices falls on the fabs,(a fab or fabs is a term commonly used to describe a fabrication plant responsible for making semiconductor devices) which are high-tech facilities scattered across the world, with the majority in Southeast Asia.

A “fab” that processes 50,000 wafers—the silicon platform on which chips are built—per month consumes over 1 TWh of electricity a year.

That’s as much power as is required by a city of 100,000 residents.

Moreover, a rough estimate pegs the water consumption of a fab at over 19 million liters per day. That’s the amount of water consumed by a city of 60,000—for a whole year! In addition, these facilities utilize tons of chemicals, most of them expensive and toxic, and generate tons of waste, which include greenhouse gases like SF6, CF4, NF3, and C4F8.

There are over 1,000 semiconductor fabs operating globally today.

They make $450 billion worth of microchips a year and generate 50 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

This complex semiconductor fabrication process is nestled at the heart of an elaborate web of international assembly lines. The company that makes the wafers and the fabs that create the microchips can be located in different parts of the globe. The assembly of the actual device likely takes place in a different company at a third location, and the end user could be anywhere in the world.

This means that the company whose name is on the final product might have very little control over the conditions and practices of the fabs.

Further, different parts of the semiconductor lifecycle are regulated by different environmental legislation, making not just the implementation of sustainability efforts, but also the tracking of their environmental footprints, complicated.

The elements of lithography, sand and silicon crystals, sit atop a silicon wafer

Given the size of the microchip, these numbers seem extraordinary.

However, this could very well be the price that we pay for the complexity of a chip, and the comfort it brings into our lives.

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Advances in the technology sector have seen revolutionary gadgets surfacing because of this little mysterious device.

Microchip technology has modified existing patterns of human activities such in personal, social, political, and economic spheres.

Microchips are clearly being utilized for several other purposes.

In military applications, the microchips were used to build the Minuteman II missile in the 1960s. To add to that, a Z-40 semi-automatic pistol with a microchip embedded in its grip was released to avoid the use of the pistol by any unauthorized user.

In Industrial applications, scientists have employed the use of a microchip-based technology to detect the type and the progression of cancer in patients. Because of this technology, patients can now be informed of their prognosis within a few hours.

Chip improvements have led to increased computing power and incredible memory function.

Microchips have enabled applications like on-device artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual augmented reality to come to life.

Gains in data transfer such as 5G connectivity have been enhanced by the microchip technology.

Microchip technology has made huge advances in technology.

Objects and devices such as communication devices, vehicles, personal entertainment devices, GPS tracking devices, weapons, identification cards, micro-ovens, supercomputers, and many other applications use microchipMicrochips’ distinctive mode of collecting data and transmitting data to its exact destination has made information easier to handle.

The epic and revolutionary manufacturing techniques of microchips have created a storm of microchip-embedded devices that affect our daily lives, both positively and inevitably negatively  

Regardless of the industry, modern electronics use thousands, millions, or even billions of semiconductors on a single chip.

As a result, today as consumers demand more electronics, one of the most important components of any circuitry has become something of a scarcity. is that there is a massive shortage.

This has happened over the past year, largely due to a significant shortage of the most basic building block of technology:

Semiconductors.

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It is likely that microchip manufacturing will continue to be a major consumer of electricity, water, and chemicals.

So in shaping our world we could ensure that the energy is supplied by renewables, that the water is recycled, and the chemicals are processed without damage to the environment. In other words, we must be relentless in our efforts to make microchips more sustainable. And we should never forget that the comforts of modern life gifted by these wonder chips come at the expense of a vast amount of resources.

Microchips act as a key unit for programming the conversion of the car industry to electric cars, which is increasingly dependent on electronics, the lithography industry, the smartphone industry, and the internet to name just a few of the trillion applications over the past several decades.

The microchip industry filled by the need for big science is growing exponentially year on year. 

The problem is embedding them in objects is one thing, deciding in which devices to embed them and what systems to build around them is another matter altogether.

Laws governing their application are literally in human hands for now but not much longer.  

All human comments are appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.