Silicon is the essential foundation of all electronics-based products, and is the basic building block of digital innovation. Its ability to behave as an efficient semiconductor allows silicon to be used in today’s processors, where tight electrical control is needed to get the product to even work. Throughout the years, the natural ability of silicon rarely has been the problem in getting chips to go faster and faster. However, with the latest generation of process technology, silicon is now proving to be very problematic to work with.
A more radical change is needed in the material structure, processing method or device design to enhance IC performance. The latest innovation is the concept of strained silicon. The basic idea behind this: if silicon atoms can forcibly be pushed apart, then electrons flowing between gates will be less impeded. Electrons flow through strained silicon 70% faster than through nonstrained silicon, and strained chip designs can be 35% faster than standard designs.
This report provides an up-to-date analysis of recent developments and current trends in the global strained silicon arena. The identification of significant revenue growth drivers in specific product categories is an additional aim. The objective of this type of systematic research is to quantify the projected impact of the forces, from within and from outside, currently at work in this industry.
SCOPE OF STUDY
The report contains:
Research for this report was conducted via a number of data channels. The primary sources of information were (i) Internet searches and industry association data, and (ii) interviews conducted with chip component suppliers, custom engineering companies, and manufacturers of representative applications. In addition, other secondary sources were consulted for the report, including reviews of industry journals and publications, product literature, white papers & technical journals, and financial reports for industry suppliers. Internal sources included earlier reports from BCC on advanced electronic materials technologies.
It is noteworthy to elucidate the approach used to deduce growth projections for the Strained Silicon market, especially considering its relationship to the overall high-tech electronics and semiconductor industry. The methodology was as follows:
First, we tabulated annual revenue numbers for the overall high-technology industry, the semiconductor , and for chip-categories for the past 15 years (1990 to 2005). The goal was to determine trend lines, potential drift cycles, and, most importantly, relationship formulae between the industries. Using the historical data, we were able to decipher a relationship equation between the chip component segment revenues and the high-tech industry revenues.
Next we assessed extraneous factors, such as:
Economy (for example the slowdown over the past few years)
Vacillation in market demand - downturn in telecom and rise in automotive, for example
New technology innovation in end-use markets (signifying greater feature demands on the chip arena). A popular example here was the pervading Internet phenomenon.
Geographical trends, such as the rise of Asia-Pac as a major consumer of electronics.
These key pointers were factored into the original relationship equation to get a more realistic and customized growth rate trend, especially catering to the varying demand and growth projected for different end-use applications within the Strained Silicon landscape.
Finally, the end results were compared to the initial relationship matrix to ensure that the Strained Silicon numbers are aligned with estimated projections that have been stated for the semiconductor and overall technology industry to a reasonable extent.
From an applications perspective, the market is based on the estimated demand in six major applications - Computing, Telecommunications, Consumer Electronics, Automotive, Medical & Office Equipment, and Industrial & Military Electronics. Application demand was aligned with corresponding demand for chip component categories, such as MPUs, MCUs, and memory, etc. The tenet of Revenue/Square Inch was utilized to assess the equation relationship between application device demand and silicon wafer demand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ravi Krishnan has over 12 years of extensive professional and research experience in high technology with a special focus on the semiconductor industry. His work experience in this regard includes research analyst and subject-matter expert roles at market research firms Cahners In-Stat Group and Integrated Circuit Engineering Corp. in Scottsdale, AZ, and as a High-tech Strategy Consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting. Currently, Ravi is with Cognizant Technology Solutions in an IT Management capacity. Ravi has an MBA and a graduate degree in Mass Communications, both from Arizona State University, and an undergraduate degree in technology from the Birla Institute of Technology & Science, India.