Civilian Chips Manufacturers Are Running out of Silicon

Silicon wafers are one of the main components for the microchip production. There are silicon deposits and production of silicon wafers in Russia, but they are suitable only for special-purpose technologies. Wafers for civilian electronics were purchased in the EU, and now, according to the fifth package of EU sanctions, they are prohibited for import. 

On April 8, the European Union adopted the fifth package of anti-Russian sanctions due to  the "special military operation" taking place in Ukraine. Apart from other things the package included a ban on the import to Russia of raw materials necessary for the production of microchips, including silicon. Supplies of the equipment for the microchips and quantum electronics production  are also prohibited for import.

Kommersant reports that the EU document states that the goods prohibited for import were selected based on whether they contribute to the improvement of Russia's military and technological potential. But, apparently, the EU's actions are more likely to hit only manufacturers of civilian products, but not defense orders.

The manufacturer of Russian chips confirms that companies use imported silicon when creating processors according to 90 nm standards: "After the introduction of an outright ban, China remains the only alternative."

The main consumer of silicon wafers for further chip production is the Micron plant in Zelenograd. According to Kommersant sources, the company has been trying to replace European materials with Chinese ones for the past few years. Micron declined to comment.

There are deposits of silicon in Russia, as well as companies engaged in its processing. Silicon processing enterprises perform tasks for various sectors of the economy.

"All enterprises are interested not in silicon itself as a source material, but in wafers, and in the case of microelectronics, their suitability depends on the purity of silicon, the quality of surface processing, and the concentration of defects," says Arseniy Brykin, director of the Association of Developers and Manufacturers of the Basis Consortium.

There are manufacturers of silicon wafers in Russia, but they mainly provide the production of microchips and discrete semiconductors for special purposes, explains Ivan Pokrovsky, executive director of the Association of Russian Electronics Developers and Manufacturers: "For relatively modern products of the 180-90 nm level, they are not suitable for technical requirements."

As a result, only manufacturers of civilian products, such as Micron and, in case of launch, NM-Tech, will suffer from sanctions. It is impossible to provide civilian production with Russian silicon in the near future, it will require significant investments and time, Pokrovsky believes. In addition, due to sanctions, Russian chip manufacturers have been cut off from Taiwanese factories, and hundreds of thousands of already paid processors risk simply not reaching their customers.

Source: Kommersant

Our partners