Semiconductors consist of materials whose electrical conductivity lies between that of a conductor, such as copper, and that of an insulator, such as glass. In their initial state, semiconductors have similar properties to non-conductors. Certain external influences, such as temperature or light, can cause outer electrons to dissolve, resulting in semiconductors taking on the properties of conductors. Often high-purity silicon is used, which is obtained from quartz sand. The chemical material is cut into thin circular slices – known as wafers. Through exposure, varnishing and etching, three-dimensional structures are applied through which electricity is conducted – so called circuits. The individual chips are around one millimeter to a few centimeters in size and are packaged in a plastic housing before being built into electrical devices.
Strict hygiene regulations must be observed during production. There must be no dust particles or static electricity in the environment. Production is concentrated in a few markets. The main production country, with a share of around 50% of chips sold, is Taiwan.
Today, modern vehicles contain hundreds of semiconductors, especially in the infotainment system, digital displays and cameras. Electric vehicles in particular require an extremely large number of chips to regulate the complex battery system.