Silicon Wafer - The Making of Computer Chips, Silicon Systems International SSI 374


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About this Artwork:  

I enjoy making these Making Computer Chip artworks more than any other work. I bring one to every art show. I use it to explain how computer chips are made. The coolest thing about the artwork is that the computer chip background image is of chips on the completed silicon wafer in the artwork. 

The artwork describes the process of making chips, from sand to completed computing devices. On the back is a narrative describing the display, the chip-making process, and the artist’s signature. The artwork contains elements used in the making of silicon wafers, as well as, three 100mm silicon wafers (an unpolished, a polished, and a finished etched wafer). The completed silicon wafer contains about 130 Silicon Systems International (SSI) 374 chips. There are also five standard test dies on the wafer (one in the center and the other four in an "X" pattern). The background image of this artwork is of the SSI 374 chips on the wafer. The finished computer chips are intended to show the variety of packages that are used to house the actual chips. Designers select packages for their chips according to electrical, environmental and weight considerations. Of special note is the EPROM. Because of the need to expose the chip to ultraviolet light to erase its memory, the quartz window allows the chip inside to be seen.

About Making Computer Chips:

Computer chips start out as ordinary sand, which is silicon dioxide. However, the silicon must be made very, very pure. The first step is to melt the sand, in a furnace that reaches about 3200o F, and mix with carbon. This first purification process creates 99% pure Silicon, a common output is Silicon Carbide. The Silicon Carbide is processed in a trichlorosilane distillation method to create 99.9999% pure silicon called polycrystalline silicon. The polysilicon is broken up into chunks. These chunks are melted in a crucible at about 2500o F. A silicon crystal seed is dipped in molten silicon and slowly drawn out to create a cylinder of silicon. These silicon cylinders are some of the purest crystals on the planet. Once the silicon cylinder is grown to the desired diameter, it is sawed into wafers. These wafers are polished to achieve a very flat mirror surface. Transistors, and other microelectronic parts, are built on the polished wafer in layers in a process called etching. The wafer is then sawed into its individual chips. Each chip is mounted in an electronic package that serves to protect it and connect it to the outside world. It has been said that computer chips are the greatest value-added product in the world. We essentially take a pile of sand and change it into thousands of dollars worth of computer chips.



The artwork is 11"x14" in a black shadow box frame, with glass. All framing materials are acid-free. A narrative about the artwork that includes the artist’s signature is placed on the back of the artwork.

Please note:  The look of the artifacts in the artworks may vary, each piece is unique.