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An Introduction to Semiconductor Thin-Films
An Introduction to Semiconductor Thin-Films

Tech Updates

An Introduction to Semiconductor Thin-Films

Thin film technology is rapidly becoming an important material in many different industries, helping experts to drive forward innovation and find more efficient solutions to products/services we use in our everyday lives.

One industry where thin films are becoming increasingly more popular is in the electronics and wearable tech industries, due to their semiconductor properties.

Thin films are well-known for being extremely lightweight, affordable to produce, abundantly available, flexible and easy to manufacture in a range of environments.

In this article, we’ll be talking more about the electrical properties of semiconductor thin films and why this has made them such a popular choice in so many different industries. Keep on reading to find out more!

How are semiconductor thin films made

Semiconductor thin films are made through a very specific process where materials are deposited onto a surface in very thin layers. This is called the thin film deposition process, which often comes in two different forms, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) or physical vapour deposition (PVD).

There are many different methods that can be used to create semiconductor thin films, but all of the most common methods include the same basic thing – placing thin layers onto materials within a vacuum chamber.

These manufacturing methods were first introduced in the mid-17th century, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when more advanced techniques started to be developed and introduced which has allowed for the creation of the thin film industry that we know and benefit from today.

The first method, chemical vapour deposition is a process that uses very high temperatures and gases like silicon tetrachloride or dichlorosilane. During the process, the high temperature and gases work to promote thin film growth on a chosen material.

The materials that are used in this process are commonly things like glass or quartz, but can also be a range of other materials. It will all depend on the product that needs to be made and what materials are typically used during the manufacturing process.

The other common process that companies may use to create semiconductor thin films is physical vapour deposition. This process uses lower temperatures than are observed during the chemical process and uses evaporation as route to creating thin films.

This process is most commonly used when companies want to apply thin film technologies to products that are made of metals or alloys, including materials like copper, chromium, gold, aluminium, and others.

During physical vapour deposition, atoms or molecules are evaporated from a heated crucible into a vacuum chamber. When these atoms are heated up, they form into a gas that will then condense onto the surface of the material that are intended to cover.

Atom by atom they are laid upon the substrate surface until it has been completely covered by the semiconductor thin film layer. The result of this process produces a layer of material that is extremely thin and extremely pure – it’s also much more lightweight, cost-effective and efficient than other layers that have been used for the same purposes in the past.

Companies, such as Korvus Technology, have been working to improve and expand on the current thin film manufacturing processes, which has allowed for even more advanced techniques to be employed.

The many uses and applications of semiconductor thin films

Today, semiconductor thin films are being used in a wide variety of electronic devices, many of which you probably use every single day without knowing that they come equipped with one of the most impressive materials in the past few decades.

They have become so popular because they are much more appropriate, efficient, and cost-effective alternative to other materials and manufacturing processes that were used in the past.

Here are just some of the most common uses and applications of semiconductor thin films that you can see in modern electrical products today.

LED and optical displays

Thin films are also used in the screens we look at every single day to create the various electrical and optical components we’re viewing.

They can be used to create light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the transparent conductive electrodes that drive this technology. Thin films are also used to create optical features that control the colour of the light that is being emitted by the displays.

Thin-film transistors

Thin-film transistors are parts that are often found in smartphones, tablets and TVs because they are small enough to fit into even the most compact devices.

These transistors made using thin film technology offer superior performance when compared to other electronic resistors and, thanks to their impressive conductivity and stability in high temperature, they are very useful in devices that require rapidly changing signals or large amounts of power.

Computer hardware

If you’ve ever worried about running out of storage or your computer hardware failing you, the solution to all your problems could lie in thin film technology.

Thanks to advancements in thin film technology, SSDs can now offer much more storage space for the personal data you store on your computer than every before. Plus, the advancements in this technology shows no signs of slowing down so we can expect to enjoy even more storage as the years progress.

Photovoltaic cells

As we all make more of an effort to become more sustainable, many homes and businesses are starting to install solar panels to their roofs to power everyday operations – many of these solar panels use thin film technology as the driving force of everything they do.

Photovoltaic cells use thin-film solar cells to help make it easier for those to generate power wherever they are. Whether you want to live off-grid completely, or just looking to take a few days off camping, these cells are extremely important if you want to have some source of power.

These cells are flexible, lightweight and much safer than some of the rigid materials that were used before, which makes them perfect for a whole range of different applications.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve given you an in-depth introduction at everything you need to know about semiconductor thin films.

Starting with what they are and the electrical properties that make them so beneficial in many industries, to discussing some of the common uses and applications of this type of technology.

Semiconductor thin films are now part of our every day lives but the technology they use is still very much progressing at a fast speed. As more research into this technology is carried out we will start to see thin films playing an even bigger role in the devices and products that we use.

What did you learn about thin film technology that you didn’t know before? Let us know in the comments below!

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