How Computer Chips are Made

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Creating Silicon Wafers

  • Computer chips begin as a material called silicon (hence, where "silicon valley" got its name). The material is crafted into thin, large "wafer-like" sheets. These sheets are created through a process where pure silicon crystals are pulled from crystalline material melt. The melt is then sliced into pieces creating the wafers. After they're sliced, the wafers are polished to protect their surface.

Adding Photoresist

  • The wafers are coated with a special liquid called photoresist. When exposed to ultraviolet light, the material leaves an impression behind. This impression makes up the special circuits for each chip.

Using Ultraviolet Light

  • After the photoresist is added, a mask (similar to a stencil) is created with the circuit pattern for the chip. The mask is then placed above several lenses to shrink the image to the size of the chip. Finally, ultraviolet light is shined through the mask, hardening the exposed areas of photoresist.

Cleaning and Finishing

  • After the UV image is produced on the chip, any excess photoresist is removed with a series of chemicals. After the chip dries, it is tested and then placed into production.

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