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Overview Of The Semiconductor Raw Materials Industry


Semiconductor industry is considered as the ‘heart’ of electronic devices, where Microchip Design plays the role of creating the ‘soul’ of the chip. However, few pay attention to the semiconductor raw materials, shaping the form of semiconductor chips.

By utilizing materials such as silicon (Si), germanium (Ge), gallium arsenide (GaAs), phosphorus (P), boron, gallium, etc., traditional thermal devices have gradually been replaced. Such smart, advanced, and compact devices like smartphones, laptops, electric cars, and even rockets, etc. can now exist thanks to those semiconductor raw materials.

semiconductor raw material

Let’s delve deeper into the semiconductor raw materials, their potential, and market share in the future in this blog.

Common Semiconfuctor Raw Materials

semiconductor raw material

Along with the semiconductor chip’s crucial role, raw materials contribute a significant part in the semiconductor manufacturing process to empower today’s modern world. The most common semiconductor raw materials include:

  • Silicon

Silicon, the primary semiconductor raw material for wafer fabrication, is vital in the chip production process. Wafer, or semiconductor silicon wafer, acts as a crucial component in the initial stages of chip manufacturing, serving as the ‘vessel’ to transform integrated circuit designs into physical chips.

  • Germanium

Another semiconductor raw material with a wide range of applications is germanium, often seen in solar cell manufacturing, fiber optics, satellite image sensors, and military applications such as night vision glasses.

Germanium mostly comes from coal ash or be produced as a byproduct of zinc processing. According to EU Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), China leads as the major Germanium global producer (holds 60%), exported 43.7 tons in 2022. The rest 40% of the global Germanium comes fromFinland, Russia, Canada and the U.S

  • Gali

Found in small quantity in bauxite and zinc ores, manufacturers use this semiconductor raw material to produce gallium arsenide used in electronic chips or in other fields duch as thermocouples, nuclear medicine testing, thermometers, and some pharmaceuticals.

Bauxite processing for aluminum production can yield gallium metal, and its production is mainly concentrated in China and Japan, others is produced by a EU company. In terms of native gallium, only Japan, Russia, and South Korea only produce a small quantity.

Semiconductor wafers containing gallium arsenide have the ability to withstand higher temperatures and operate at higher frequencies compared to silicon wafers. They are also proved to be smoother than silicon semiconductor chips, especially at high operating frequencies, making them valuable for satellite technology application, LED lights, radar, and wireless communication devices.

  • Indi Phosphua

This semiconductor material is known for its high reception, large emission current, direct bandgap, and low current density, making it popular for electronic device manufacturing. Indium phosphide is utilized in electronic devices like laser diodes and integrated quantum optical circuits in the field of optical telecommunications. Its name comes from Latin, means purple – indicum.

Indium phosphide exhibits a face-centered cubic crystal structure, similar to gallium arsenide, making it an excellent foundation for optoelectronic devices and a common component of III-V semiconductors. Unusually, it lacks metal content, a deviation from the norm in III-V semiconductors.

Indium phosphide plays a pivotal role in making laser beams and constructing integrated quantum optical circuits. Due to its high sensitivity to radiation chracteristic, it stands out as an excellent choice for manufacturing optoelectronic devices like solar panels. Indium phosphide serves as an outstanding substrate for epitaxial optoelectronic devices, using different semiconductor materials, such as indium, gallium arsenide.

One drawback of indium phosphide is its costliness and the absence of a scalable production method, posing a challenge in finding suppliers. Manufacturers can produce this material through the reaction between indium iodide and white phosphorus at high temperatures. Second method involves combining pure elements at high temperature and pressure. The third approach to indium phosphide production is decomposing a mixture of phosphine and trialkyl indium compounds.

  • Doping Impurities

The production of P-type and N-type semiconductors involves adding impurities to silicon crystals to alter their electrical properties, a process known as doping. In this process, P-type semiconductors have many hollow holes, while N-type semiconductors have additional electrons. Together, they can form a pn junction, a foundation for various semiconductor materials.

A dopant, a secondary material used to create impurities, holds three or five valence electrons. Two common dopants include:


A brittle metal crucial for semiconductor chip manufacturing, it enhances the bonding of different materials, enhancing their efficiency. Boron is widely used in various applications, from insulating layers to capacitors and semiconductor devices.

Boron improves the dielectric strength of polymers, serving as part of the sealing pad, capacitors, and insulating layers on conductive wires. The Boron-doped fiber amplifier allows for better signal transmission in optical fiber information systems. This element is particularly useful for doping semiconductor raw materials such as silicon carbide, silicon, and germanium.


Acting as a dopant by occupying a position in the crystal structure that previously held by a silicon atom, phosphorus releases additional electrons. Its four valence electrons replace the four valence electrons of silicon, while the fifth electron remaining unbound and not forming any additional bonds with other electrons. Substituting multiple silicon atoms with phosphorus releases numerous electrons capable of moving around the crystal.

Phosphorus is commonly added through methods like vapor deposition, gas diffusion, or direct injection into the silicon surface. The most common method of impuring semiconductor raw material in integrated circuits is by depositing phosphorus onto the silicon layer and then heating the surface of that layer. This process allows phosphorus to diffuse into the silicon. Subsequently, the temperature is lowered to halt the diffusion process. Other methods of doping silicon with phosphorus include liquid phase epitaxy, gas diffusion, and directly introducing phosphorus atoms onto the silicon surface.

Is the Earth’s current semiconductor raw material supply sufficient for the booming global semiconductor industry?

Given the crucial role of semiconductor chips in today’s modern society, the rapid advancement of high-tech technology, and the increasing demand for ultra-small chips, the question arises: How long will the current semiconductor raw material supply on Earth last?

semiconductor raw material

Silicon, being the primary material shaping semiconductor chips, is the second most abundant element (28%) in the Earth’s crust, therefore, ensuring a relatively stable silicon supply in the near future. Other semiconductor materials, including phosphorus (0.105% of the Earth’s crust), arsenic (0.00018%), bismuth (0.0000008%) for N-type conductors, and boron (0.001%), gallium (0.0019%), indium (0.000025%) for P-type conductors, may face supply limitations due to market change, influenced by geopolitical factors, trade policies, and mining constraints. Particularly, bismuth and indium are the rarest and most at risk of depletion. If that is the casem what might be the next steps?

Several assumptions suggest the need for increased exploration of asteroid resources or alternative manufacturing approaches using more common semiconductor raw materials. In reality, global efforts are underway to develop alternative materials, improve recycling processes, and seek more sustainable semiconductor raw material sources to reduce dependence on limited resources.

Potential Growth in Semiconductor Raw Material Market Share (2024-2029)

The semiconductor material market is estimated to reach $70.30 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to $88.66 billion within the next five years, achieving a CAGR of 4.75% during the 2024-2029 period (according to the Global Semiconductor Raw Material Market Growth Report by Mordor Intelligence)

semiconductor raw material

  • With the trend towards “shrinking” semiconductor chips’ size, the demand for semiconductor raw materials is expected to increase rapidly. The production of advanced ICs, heterogeneous integration, and 3D memory architecture requires more processing steps, driving the manufacturing of semiconductor wafers and increased consumption of packaging materials.
  • Semiconductor materials are transitioning from rigid substrates to more “flexible” softer materials such as plastics and paper to explore new materials and manufacturing approaches. The shift towards more flexible substrates has led to various devices, from light-emitting diodes to solar cells and semiconductor devices.
  • The Russia-Ukraine conflict is impacting the semiconductor supply chain. As the two critical suppliers of semiconductor raw materials and electronic component manufacturing, the conflict between these two countries causes disruptions in the supply chain, causing shortages and price increases for these materials. As a result, it affects manufacturers and potentially leading to higher costs for end-users.
  • Furthermore, according to UkraineInvest, copper prices rose to $10,845 per ton in early March 2022. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, high energy costs, and stricter emission standards in Europe are considered major factors contributing to the continued shortage of copper.

These are some factors which impact the global semiconductor raw material growth scenario in the coming years.

semiconductor raw material

Semiconductor raw materials are an indispensable factor in completing the semiconductor supply chain, contributing toevery stages in semiconductor chip producing process, from design and manufacturing to packaging and use in electronic devices for end consumers. Therefore, recognizing the role and predicting future raw material production is essential for providing solutions to help the global semiconductor industry operate optimally and sustainably.

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