Semiconductors are foundational to modern technology: without semiconductors, integrated circuits, transistors, solar cells, and many other aspects of computing simply would not function. Semiconductors impact on so many aspects of modern life, from data centres and smart homes to high-speed networks and the automotive sector. Although we cannot discuss the future of the industry with absolute certainty, here are our predictions for technology which will change the semiconductor industry in the year to come.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The global AI market is expected to increase to $390.9 billion by 2025, and it seems certain that developments in AI will affect semiconductor design and production. We have already witnessed a new wave of innovation in the semiconductor industry fuelled by developments in AI, in relation to the Internet of Things (IoT) in particular. Improvements in semiconductor architecture are required to tackle data use in AI-integrated circuits. Advances in design for AI will not concern overall performance so much as increase the speed of data moving in and out of memory resulting in higher power and memory systems with minimised inefficiencies.
The x86 architecture has been used as standard throughout the microprocessor industry for the last half century. However, Arm architecture has been steadily growing in popularity. Whereas the impetus behind Arm was providing a solution for low-power microchips to be used with vertical applications, they are now emerging from this limited arena to compete with high-performance architectures and the established x86 players. As Arm keeps gaining new customers, they are expected to reach the tipping point that x86 experienced in the past. History demonstrates that the sector turns to where the volume is, and IT businesses are already starting to work on a range of apps and solutions specifically for the Arm architecture.
As the second-most abundant element on Earth, silicon has been widely used in the production of semiconductors, but other elements such as cobalt and gallium were also previously recognised for their chemical and physical properties. These elements are now being reinvestigated in an attempt to develop more sustainable and efficient alternatives to silicon-based technology. The compound semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN) offers increased electron mobility and performance in comparison to silicon semiconductors, especially in high-power applications.
Want to find out more about GaN? Read our blog on the potential of GaN technology here.