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What Does Argon Have to do With the Semiconductor Chip Shortage?

Gases / Industries / Industry News

Just as a body cannot function void of a brain, a technological device cannot function without a semiconductor chip. The production of vehicles, iPads, computers, smartphones, televisions, etc. are moving in slow motion, if not coming to a complete halt.

The issues of supply and demand, poor consumer habit estimates, lockdowns, and environmental factors have all led to a shortage in semiconductor chips. This, in turn, has had some effect on the atmospheric gas industry, which supplies several gases (helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and argon) to produce semiconductor chips.


What Caused the Shortage?

When the demand for more electronic devices skyrocketed during pandemic lockdowns, the #StayHome trend infiltrated the online marketplace in many ways. People wanted to connect. Yet, with these very same lockdowns, virus-related staff shortages caused companies and manufacturing facilities to close. These issues are ongoing, particularly in Malaysia, which is experiencing an influx in Covid-19 cases. Couple that with severe drought in Taiwan and the Texas winter storm this year, and you have environmental factors hindering production weighing in.

Car manufacturers, assuming stay-at-home orders would cause sales to plummet, took less priority in ordering the semiconductor chips that would function as brains for their vehicles. However, the demand for new vehicles did not stop, and Toyota, Nissan, GM, Ford, Jeep, Tesla, and others, have all announced that they will be producing hundreds of thousands – if not upward to half a million – less vehicles this year than years prior. As with all these types of shortages, the primary solution is time to get factories back online, that which is not expected to flatten out demand with supply until sometime in 2023, possibly even longer. China is even investing billions of dollars to upstart a new plant altogether.

In turn, this supply shortage trickles down into the atmospheric gas industry, which plays a primary role in supporting the production of semiconductor chips.


The Role Argon Plays

Semiconductor chips are made from silicon wafers, which are made from one of the earth’s most abundant resources: sand. Intel explains, “To make wafers, silicon is purified, melted, and cooled to form an ingot, which is then sliced into discs called wafers. Chips are built simultaneously in a grid formation on the wafer surface in a fabrication facility.”

Argon has three primary roles in this process, the first being forming an inert environment when silicon ingots are sliced into wafers. The next is keeping unwanted reactions from happening during the etching process. Air Source Industries explains, during the etching process, argon maintains an inert environment, guarding silicon crystals from oxidizing or forming metal nitrides. The final application involves liquid argon, used to clean any dust or debris from the final etchings.

With over 1,000 steps in the semiconductor chip process, the intricacy of every application is essential, as is the purity of each gas. Each gas, including argon, are often purchased in bulk for semiconductor chip applications.


Argon Delivery in the Rocky Mountain Region

Rocky Mountain Air aims to provide customers with flawless dependability – from pricing, cryogenic tank consultation, auto deliveries, and more. RMA is dedicated to working behind the scenes with the industries that keep the world connected and partnering with ongoing innovations in technology.

Contact your local branch today in any one of our five states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska) for any questions or if you would like to begin a partnership with us. We look forward to serving you with your argon applications!

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