Quantum computing, Public-key cryptography, Computing, Quantum mechanics, Research, Encryption SEMICONDUCTOR SUSTAINABITY – Prof. Jo Shien Ng, University of Sheffield – The Agenda
So you have all these families up and down the country across the world, actually suddenly needing more computing equipment all at the same time. But then you also have the other general increase in demand. So, for example, you have this mobile communication, so theres an upgrade to 5g in terms of infrastructures and in terms of the phones as well, so thats increased use of electronics and chips are required. You also have this very rapid uh transition that we need to meet the climate change, um uh, responsibility that we all have and we are going to go for uh, electric vehicles, so electric vehicles, by definition its a lot of electronic sensors and a lot of computing Power um to manage the battery, so you have all these things. On top of, generally speaking, the consumer, electronics, all of us have a lot of consumer electronics in our house. Each person has several items so has in fact the the pandemic highlighted problems that were already there in the global supply chain. I think the demand has always been there, and but the pandemic has sort of happened at the same time. You know, together with the electric vehicle transitioning, so it kind of all comes in um a bit of unfortunate timing, but the supply chain was coping fairly well before the pandemic. Had this big increase um, so just unfortunate timing, but you you might think why cant the chip manufacturer just respond to that right.
If so, many people are waiting for the chips to sell, they should just build more factories, its not as simple as that. This thing takes years of planning and it takes tens of millions of dollars just to build new facilities, and you then need to commission. It run it out to production which could take another half a year. So um were not really going to solve this problem by um having this huge amount of money thrown into it quickly. It doesnt it wouldnt get soft like that, and not just throwing huge amounts of money at the problem, uh joe, but also finding uh or training. Finding and training the skilled workers to make these chips. Yes, yes, youre right, its um ive mentioned before its a highly specialized workforce and you do need to train them and you do need to have the right kind of graduates um to train. To start with – and i i dont know about the countries, but certainly in the uk um, you need um graduates with physics, degree or electronic engineering degree, and we dont really have that many of them in this country. So if that happens, if youre throwing billions of dollars, perhaps not just at building factories within your own borders, but also training, very highly skilled people, then the price of chips is going to rise, substantially isnt it making perhaps electric vehicles even more expensive um. Probably so i i im hoping that it wouldnt be um.
That wouldnt be the case because it really would be quite bad for, for the consumers, prices will be high and it makes it harder for us and to to commit and then actually implement all those changes that we need to do to to realize. The climate change uh challenges, so i suspect we wouldnt really have like each. You know individual countries having their own chip manufacturer. It probably wouldnt be like that, because there just simply isnt enough money and enough um trained skilled workers to go around to to achieve that kind of scenario. So most likely countries will specialize um at slightly different aspects of the cheap manufacturing technologies. You mentioned climate change everybodys talking about sustainability. Is that sustainable the continued increase in the manufacture of chips? Well, we would hope that the human would try to somehow reign in our demand for electricity um, but probably its not going to happen soon. Manufacturing these chips are energy intensive, because you do have to create very stable, very controlled environment uh for for the whole um cheap facilities. So you need to maintain the temperature, the humidity and you need to have a huge amount of um air filtration to cut down the particles and so on. So these are energy intensive and, however, when you have the right chips as well, there is a positive side. Is that if you do need chips, then some of the newer chips are using less energy while giving you the same performance or they could use the same energy but giving you better performance.
So a lot of this improvement that we see in terms of energy efficiencies in our consumer products or in the cars and so on. They all come down to having higher and higher performance in these semiconductor chips. We just dont really think about it. That way, at least not the general public. What about the sustainability of the ingredients? To put it that way of a chip? Im thinking ingredients like lithium and access to these vital minerals, thats going to be a very big part of the political and economic process isnt? It yes, yes, and so for the treat manufacturing the um, the main material that you have to build. This tree is silicon which, fortunately, you can get it from sand after huge amount of purification. You will also need some precious metal uh inside there. There could be some rare metals, but the amount used is quite small um, even though we are talking about a lot of chips, but chips themselves are very, very small um in actual dimensions. So i suspect that that need for for materials is its less of a problem for semiconductor, cheap manufacturing compared to say for like battery manufacturing. All right, professor will leave there professor joe shin, thank you very much for joining us on the agenda.