12th March, 2022 Science and Technology
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- Ukraine's two leading suppliers of neon, which produce about half the world's supply of the key ingredient for making chips, have halted their operations as Moscow has sharpened its attack on the country.
- Some 45%-54% of the world's semiconductor grade neon, critical for the lasers used to make chips, comes from two Ukrainian companies.
- Supply cuts are threatening to raise prices and aggravate the semiconductor shortage.
- Neon (Ne), is a chemical element, inert gas of Group 18 (noble gases) of the periodic table, used in electric signs and fluorescent lamps.
- Colourless, odourless, tasteless, and lighter than air, neon gas occurs in minute quantities in Earth's atmosphere and trapped within the rocks of Earth's crust.
- Neon is also used to make high-voltage indicators and switching gear, lightning arresters, diving equipment and lasers.
- Liquid neon is an important cryogenic refrigerant. It has over 40 times more refrigerating capacity per unit volume than liquid helium, and more than 3 times that of liquid hydrogen.
- In semiconductor manufacturing, it is used for lithography. Because its wavelength is so short it can create patterns in the wafer chip down to 193 nanometres.
- Lithography stage of chip manufacturing, involves using lasers to draw features onto the silicon wafers.
- Chipmakers account for 75% of global demand for neon.