What you need to know:
- As its name implies, it is a material that conducts electricity momentarily, hence the “semi” in its name.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday officially opened the Semiconductor Technologies factory at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology's Science and Technology Park in Nyeri County.
During the launch, President Kenyatta touted it as the foundation of making Kenya an industrialised nation. But what exactly is a semiconductor?
Britannica, an online encyclopedia, describes it as “any of a class of crystalline solids intermediate in electrical conductivity between a conductor and an insulator.”
To better understand what a semiconductor is, we have to look at its functionality.
As its name implies, it is a material that conducts electricity momentarily, hence the “semi” in its name. In essence, the material used in a semiconductor can allow electricity to pass through it or act as an insulator depending on the conditions.
To quote Samsung, a conductor is a material that allows the flow of electric current, an insulator doesn’t allow the flow of electric current and a semiconductor falls in between the two.
Silicon, the material in our chemistry periodic table, has been widely used as a material to manufacture semiconductors because of its availability and atomic composition.
But Silicon in itself is not a semiconductor. Through a process called doping, impurities are added to silicon to make it a semiconductor. End of Chemistry lesson.
Integrated circuits and transistors
The ability to conduct electricity while at the same time acting as an insulator makes semiconductors convenient for making integrated circuits and transistors, the building blocks of digital code (the ones and zeros you hear geeks talk about).
Without descending into a rabbit hole of computer science, semi-conductors allow for the functioning of modern electronic gadgets.
From the TV and home theatre in your living room to the fridge and microwave in your kitchen, your laptop, washing machine, remote control and the smartphone device you are probably reading this article on, semiconductor chips are essential.
They are technically in every electronic gadget.
Semiconductors have evolved over time, with a reduction in their size allowing for faster processing of information.
The launch of the semiconductor manufacturing facility at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology comes at a time when the demand for the product is high.
This is due to an ongoing shortage of semiconductors occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Semiconductor Technologies Limited, the company in a public-private partnership with the university on the project, produces integrated circuits, sensors, and related nanotechnology products for the world market.