Editorial Feature

Semiconductor Advancements Fueling the Clean Tech Revolution

Modern semiconductor technology and materials play a crucial role in the development of clean energy platforms. The novel semiconductor devices facilitate the use of sustainable clean energy, optimize the performance of clean energy platforms, and make the electrical grid more intelligent and efficient.

semiconductor advances

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The conventional fossil fuel-based energy production methods and the traditional silicon-based semiconductors have several known limitations. Power semiconductors are pivotal in the shift toward clean energy, becoming a valuable asset extensively utilized in converting, transmitting, and storing energy. Modern semiconductor advancements are driving the shift toward clean energy technology.

How are Heterogeneous Semiconductor Photo-catalysts Promoting Clean Energy Production?

The continuous rise in the global population and industrial activities have made the idea of clean energy production and the development of a sustainable green operational scheme for industrial production a necessity.

There are many alternatives to conventional fossil fuels like solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, etc. However, the utilization of solar energy using photovoltaic cells or solar panels is considered one of the most efficient and cost-effective methods of producing energy.

Different methods are utilized for solar hydrogen production, and at the core of each technique lies semiconductor photo-catalysis, which is a promising approach for carbon dioxide reduction and hydrogen generation.

As per the latest article published in Catalysts, semiconductor photocatalysts are efficient for catalyzing both energetically downhill reactions (such as pollutant degradation) and energetically uphill reactions (such as water splitting).

The photocatalytic capabilities of semiconductors are strongly influenced by their morphology. The incorporation of metals such as nickel and gold has observed a significant improvement in the photocatalytic performance of semiconductors. This approach proves efficient by improving the charge separation of semiconductors, enhancing electron transport, generating additional surface active sites, and preventing the occurrence of unintended side reactions.

Extensive efforts and dedicated studies have been directed toward heterogeneous photocatalytic reactions, aiming to address environmental and energy challenges through the use of suitable semiconducting photo-catalysts in pivotal chemical processes.

A recent innovative strategy involves integrating two or more functions within a single photocatalytic system concurrently. The complexity of such systems is due to the consolidation of two functions in one photocatalytic system that necessitates a fresh approach involving the design, control, and engineering of a semiconductor photo-catalyst with distinct characteristics tailored for each application in a specific environment.

In the most recent developments, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques have emerged as important tools to transform the exploration of electro-catalysts and photo-catalysts.

Researchers have applied diverse ML methods to forecast pollutant elimination through photocatalytic reactions, utilizing different operational factors as input parameters. Notably, the Gaussian process regression (GPR) technique, employing four kernel functions, has been recently employed in determining the photo-degradation of tetracycline (TC) in wastewater using metal–organic frameworks (MOFs).

Role of Modern Semiconductors in Sustainable Development

Nano-scale semiconductor chips are powering the world of clean technology revolution. Semiconductor chips are the building blocks of solar panels and modern circuits like the ones used in electric cars and smart fridges.

A noteworthy trend in semiconductor technology application involves maximizing functionalities through Systems on a Chip (SOC) integration. This has resulted in a surge in semiconductor intellectual property (IP) cores. Moreover, the increasing need for high-performance memory systems is directly influencing semiconductor memory IP.

The foundation of solar electric energy systems relies on semiconductor materials. Semiconductor devices are employed to regulate power derived from solar arrays and wind turbines, enabling its utilization by electrical equipment and injection into the electric grid.

A growing role of semiconductors is evident in enhancing the intelligence of the electric grid. This involves the implementation of smart meters, sensors, wireless and wired communications, and control systems. The use of modern semiconductor technologies is useful in the swift identification of faults, efficient management of power demand, and seamless integration of renewable and distributed power sources into the grid.

The Use of Semiconductors in Smart Homes

Silicon semiconductors are essential for industrial applications and are utilized for smart home technologies. The use of modern semiconductor technologies is enabling significant energy conservation in modern homes and optimizing the energy consumption of various gadgets.

Sensors are expected to play a crucial role. Two key sensor types, radar sensors and CO2 sensors, make a notable green impact on smart homes by reducing energy usage. Radar sensors detect people and movements, while CO2 sensors measure air quality. If we consider 300 million smart homes globally, each with around five smart devices saving an average of 100 Wh per day, the potential yearly energy savings could be 55 TWh.

Another example involves a smart ventilation system with an environmental sensor assessing CO2 concentration based on room occupancy. Incorporating these sensors enables smart homes to optimize energy use, cut CO2 emissions, and enhance user experience and comfort.

Many renowned companies are developing efficient chips and semiconductor technologies for clean energy applications. The world-famous company Tesla is developing a new type of semiconductor chip specifically for its electric cars. The engineers at Tesla are hopeful that by incorporating novel materials and new fabrication technology, the new semiconductor technology will be much more efficient than the conventional counterparts available in the market.

The semiconductor chips are the backbone of supercomputers. IBM is constantly working to develop semiconductor chips that have much-improved performance and are much more energy efficient.

The efforts of IBM are aimed at developing modern semiconductor chips, particularly for quantum computing. This research holds the potential to revolutionize information processing methods. Quite recently, IBM developed a new semiconductor chip containing more than 1000 qubits, which led to a significant improvement in computational efficiency.

Intel is also channeling efforts into the creation of novel semiconductor technologies, mainly targeted for use in autonomous vehicles.

Semiconductor technologies play a pivotal role in fostering innovations that contribute to secure, scalable, and dependable energy solutions. Modern technological innovations in semiconductors are necessary for a better future for humans.

References and Further Reading

Business Reporter (2023). The Green Energy Revolution: How Semiconductors are Driving Decarbonisation? [Online] Available at: https://www.business-reporter.co.uk/industrial-innovations/the-green-energy-revolution-how-semiconductors-are-driving-decarbonisation [Accessed 26 December 2023].

Forbes, (2022). 15 ‘Green’ Tech Innovations And Practices That Can Help Protect The Environment. [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/07/19/15-green-tech-innovations-and-practices-that-can-help-protect-the-environment/?sh=1b68d9e364e2 [Accessed 28 December 2023].

International Roadmap for Devices and Systems, (2023). New Semiconductor Technologies and Applications. [Online] Available at: https://irds.ieee.org/topics/new-semiconductor-technologies-and-applications [Accessed 27 December 2023].

Marwala, T., (2023). Semiconductor Chips for Sustainable Development. [Online] Available at: https://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:9267/UNU-TB_2-2023_Semiconductor-Chips-for-SD.pdf [Accessed 25 December 2023].

ST Microelectronics, (2023). Semiconductors and the Clean Energy Revolution. [Online]
Available at: https://blog.st.com/semiconductors-and-the-clean-energy-revolution/ [Accessed 2023 December 2023].

Goodarzi, N. et. al. (2023). "Recent Progress on Semiconductor Heterogeneous Photocatalysts in Clean Energy Production and Environmental Remediation" Catalysts. 13(7). 1102. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/catal13071102

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Ibtisam Abbasi

Written by

Ibtisam Abbasi

Ibtisam graduated from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. During his academic career, he has worked on several research projects and has successfully managed several co-curricular events such as the International World Space Week and the International Conference on Aerospace Engineering. Having won an English prose competition during his undergraduate degree, Ibtisam has always been keenly interested in research, writing, and editing. Soon after his graduation, he joined AzoNetwork as a freelancer to sharpen his skills. Ibtisam loves to travel, especially visiting the countryside. He has always been a sports fan and loves to watch tennis, soccer, and cricket. Born in Pakistan, Ibtisam one day hopes to travel all over the world.

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