• The New Gold Rush: Semiconductors Skyrocket in Q3

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The New Gold Rush: Semiconductors Skyrocket in Q3

Dec 15 2021

In recent days, the performance of the semiconductor industry has been subject to endless scrutiny by niche journals for the global business community. But the sales figures for Q3 herald a maturation of the sector, the ramifications of which extend far beyond the narrow purview of these insiders.

All around the world, states seem to be just throwing money at microchips. Everyone seems to be trying their hand at an inverted alchemy, trying to turn gold into silicon.

The Lay of the NAND

In a recent interview with CNBC, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the mild-mannered CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ sovereign wealth fund Mudabala (and chairman of Manchester City FC), made a set of trenchant observations on the global semiconductor industry.

“It took 50 years for the semiconductor business to become a half-a-trillion-dollar business,” notes Al Mubarak. “It’s going to take probably 8 to 10 years to double – and it’s going to double right after that, probably, in 4 to 5 years.”

Al Mubarak considers this exponential curve in light of the fact that there are only 5 global players – including Mudabala’s horse, GlobalFoundries. Four of these competitors are based in Asia, particularly South Korea.

Indeed, on the Q3 sales leader-board, South Korean companies Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix took the gold and bronze medals, respectively. Of course, the American giant Intel took second-place, steadily maintaining its long-standing position as a titan of electronics. But even here, a new order sprouts through the cracks, with SK Hynix set to acquire the multinational’s highly valuable NAND memory-chip unit in 2022.

Such shake-ups of the global status quo demonstrate the crucial role that semiconductors play in the world economy. The ever-increasing computerisation and electrification of economic processes puts the crucial components of integrated circuits, like semiconductive silicon wafers, on a par with steam, coal or oil in the grand sweep of world economic history. They are make-or-break resources and as such, any innovation in semiconductor technology will send shockwaves through all sectors.   

Staying Chipper

So, obviously, business is booming.

Mudabala is poised to invest the equivalent of $1 billion over the next few years. Since 2015, the Chinese government have been pumping billions into domestic semiconductor manufacturing in a bid to radically transform national infrastructure within a decade. Eager to get in on the action, Europe and the U.S. have been expending a lot of energy to win the favour of big chipmakers, with plant construction for overseas firms getting the green light in Arizona and Germany.

In this race, the quality of semiconductors will be a key differentiator between competitors. As such, analytical chemistry is an essential weapon in any chipmaker’s arsenal. In particular, effective and convenient detection of wafer contamination is guaranteed to make its mark on this new 21st-century Gold Rush.

For more updates and information about environmental monitoring in the semiconductor industry, make sure to stay tuned to Envirotech Online.

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