The Role of Semiconductors
Published on : Wednesday 12-01-2022
How are semiconductors contributing to various sectors in the modern age? Hitesh Bhardwaj elaborates.
We live in a rapidly evolving society where technology is constantly touching new grounds. Energy conservation and the realisation of a sustainable society are on the rise around the world. Manufacturers are constantly working to develop innovations that recognise the importance and need for sustainable development. Many global leaders offer a diverse range of Semiconductors and Devices, which are well-known in the technological world. Semiconductors play a variety of roles, from converting and transferring renewable energy to enabling responsive and efficient electricity use.
Semiconductors have improved their performance in terms of speed and functionality, significantly over the years. They are widely used in solar power, wind energy, and HEV/EVs, where they play an important role in lowering power consumption. From smartphones to aircrafts, semiconductors have evolved to improve technologies and do wonders for the entertainment and convenience of its customers.
Role of semiconductors in the modern age
Semiconductors serve as a vein for any electrical device. They play a significant role in our day to day lives. From household electrical appliances to industrial automation, semiconductors are used everywhere. Many of the digital consumer products in everyday life such as mobile phones, digital cameras, television, washing machines, refrigerators, and LED bulbs use semiconductors. Some if the modern age applications of Semiconductors are listed below:
1. Electric household appliances: Semiconductors play an important role in our daily lives. To keep Household Electric Appliances running smoothly, the motor speed must be controlled and adjusted flexibly to eliminate unnecessary movement. It helps to save energy by lowering power consumption. For example, the inverter circuit and temperature sensors used in air conditioners are made up of semiconductors.
2. Traction: Semiconductors support the traction motor by allowing electric current to pass through and allowing the motor to rotate. The motor rotates after the electricity received from the wire is converted to an appropriate size. Adjusting the amount of electricity flow, as well as controlling the rotation of the motor, can change the speed of the motor. Furthermore, electricity that is large enough to move the train cannot be applied directly to the railcar's air conditioning equipment or lighting in the railcar, it can be adjusted to an appropriate voltage using semiconductors.
3. Industrial Automation Products: Semiconductors are also a major driver of Industrial Automation products. Semiconductors provide the electric current required for automation products to operate efficiently and without problems. The power supplied to products such as robots, servo systems, and other machines is converted to the voltage that the machines require.
4. Electric/Hybrid Vehicles: Semiconductors are used in electric vehicles to improve their efficiency and reliability. Semiconductors are critical components in the production of safe and clean energy. They are responsible for electric vehicle’s connectivity and rechargeable batteries. In a hybrid-electric/electric vehicle, the IGBT module consists of a high-voltage, high-current switch that is connected directly to the traction motor. It uses direct current energy from the car's battery to turn the motor and converts the alternating current control signals via an inverter. With increased IGBT efficiency, less power is lost in the form of wasted heat, resulting in increased mileage.
5. Power generation- Wind/Solar: Photovoltaic effect (PV), which helps in converting the solar energy through PV cells made of silicon-semiconductors, is used in the process of converting solar energy to electric energy. When light strikes PV cells, the energy is absorbed and transferred to the electrons in the semiconductor material, which then flow as an electric current and generates power.
The main component in the production of energy from renewable sources is power semiconductors. Power semiconductors are used in wind turbines to convert power and connect the generator to the grid.
6. Motion Control: For industrial inverter and servo drive applications, IGBT and IPM modules are essential semiconductor devices.
7. Power supply and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) applications: IGBT modules and IPMs are the semiconductor devices which are widely used in power supply and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) applications to provide power supply to sensitive electrical and electronic devices, data centres, etc. without any interruption even when there is a power outage.
8. High frequency Devices: The rapid spread of mobile terminals such as smartphones and tablets has necessitated the establishment of Earth stations for satellite communication systems (SATCOM), which is a means of high-speed communication in areas where it is geographically difficult to install more mobile communication system base stations, or to secure emergency communications and develop terrestrial communication networks.
While each of the systems used power amplifiers with Si transistors, the transition to GaN amplifiers, which use GaN (Gallium Nitride) on transistors and are expected to be more efficient and have higher output than Si.
GaN high-frequency semiconductor devices are contributing to progress in high speed/large capacity communication systems through their high efficiency/high output.
9. Optical Fibre Communication Devices: With the rapid growth of the internet and the ongoing maintenance of the fibre-optic communications backbone system, metro-type and access-type fibre-optic communications are being introduced into corporate LANs.
Furthermore, semiconductor fibre optics are now reaching private homes, and FTTH-based high-speed communication services are becoming available.
10. 5G Base Stations: Our new technology for 5G Base stations creates a matching circuit using Surface Mount Devices (SMDs) in a small number (it is important to note here that Surface Mount Devices (SMDs) provide the same electrical characteristics as metal-foil transmission lines). The resulting power amplifier module obtains a world-leading power efficiency rating of more than 43% in the 3.4-3.8GHz bands used for 5G communications which will revolutionise the adoption of 5G technology.
In our modern, fast-paced world, it is clear that semiconductors are changing the game. Undoubtedly, semiconductors and devices have caused one of the most rapid transformations for technological progress. The rapid growth in advancement and modernisation, will surely result in more cutting-edge offerings in the coming times.
Hitesh Bhardwaj is General Manager, Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd. He specialises in setting up of new business units, heading sales, marketing, product management, business development, operations, P&L and cash flow responsibility along with short term and mid-term budgeting.